DIY: Import your Yacht into Australia

 How To Import A Boat, Yacht, or Catamaran To Australia


Importing a yacht to Australia

This article is a summary of my experience, which one might find useful when trying to figure out, how to import a boat, yacht, or catamaran to Australia.

 

(1) The basics

Background: We sailed to Australia about 2.5 years ago and cleared customs in Bundaberg, which was a very positive experience. We got a cruising permit (control permit) which allows us foreigners to sail Green Panther in Australian waters for 12 months. (https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Avia/Maritime/Requirements-for-yachts-and-pleasure-craft/your-stay ).So far we could extend the control permit but this is only possible for up to three years. Well if you leave Australia for a bit and then come back you could extend it to 4 years since it says “ ... extensions will only be granted for a maximum of three years within a four-year period. The four-year period commences from the date of arrival of the small craft in Australia.” Anyway, we were coming close to our 3 year control permit maximum but intended to stay in this amazing country for a few more years, so we had to look into the only option left – to import our boat.

So, we called the local customs officials here in Brisbane, QLD which are located in the Customs House Brisbane at the airport:

Street address:
20 - 22 The Circuit
Skygate
Brisbane Airport
Qld 4007

Counter hours:
8:30 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday

Telephone:
​1300 558 287

Email:
brissea AT border.gov.au

The customs officer was very friendly and informed me that I can get a customs agent (a private company which files the paperwork for you) or complete the forms myself which can be rather tedious. I got a cost estimate from a local company and they asked for over 900.- AUD for our 34ft sailboat, so I decided to see if I can’t figure out how to do it myself.

What follows now is how I navigated the import process, but with the disclaimer that I have no idea if this was the best or even the proper way to import our boat. Well, customs approved it so I must have done something right, but I am a sailor and biologist not a lawyer so proceed at your own risk.

Here are the steps outlined in the customs email (text copied from the customs email is shown in italic and grey font):

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Customs import entry procedures are based on self assessment by importers who should be aware of all their obligations: penalties may be imposed for the submission of incorrect or misleading information or for the omission of information to mislead.
Importers wishing to clear their own goods should contact the Customs Information and Support Centre (Ph 1300 363 263) for advice on Customs requirements and operating hours. However, it is important to stress that the Customs Service does not complete customs import entries on behalf of importers.

Step 1: Read information on Customs website regarding importing a yacht

http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page4365.asp

To find any useful information on this website I entered “yacht import” into the search window on the top right and found: nothing useful, so I just moved on to step 2

Step 2: Obtain an accepted evidence of value for your vessel. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Instructions and Guidelines – Customs Valuation provides further information that can assist in determining the most appropriate valuation method for your vessel (page 128). http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/PS200901-ig-Valuation.pdf

This link just brought me back to the main customs page (see step 1), so maybe the pdf doesn’t exist anymore? Anyway this time I entered by chance “Importing a yacht” in the search window and I got a result:

http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Avia/Maritime/Importing-a-yacht

Importing a yacht

Yachts are subject to a general rate of duty of 5 per cent based on the customs value (basically the price paid) and 10 per cent GST calculated on the customs value plus international transport and insurance plus the duty.

Privately imported yachts are generally valued using the transaction method of valuation when purchased overseas new or second-hand for export to Australia. Circumstances where we may use an alternative method of valuation include such situations as where:

  • the yacht was constructed by owner/labour;
  • the yacht has been extensively modified since purchase;
  • the purchaser and vendor are related parties and that relationship has influenced the purchase price; or
  • the original purchase price is too far removed in time.

In these instances the yacht will have to be valued by a marine surveyor in Australia. This valuation will be based on the market value and as such will include elements such as customs duty and GST. We'll have to deduct these elements plus overseas transport from the local valuation.

Where the yacht is sailed to Australia, overseas freight will be determined having regard to essential sailing costs incurred under the most commercially viable conditions. Such costs would include sailing expenditure necessarily incurred while the vessel is actually sailing (and entering and leaving) those ports of call on the most commercially viable route. It would not include any in port expenditure related to the vessel's period of stopover.

Where supported by sufficient/reliable information, essential sailing costs would also include:

  • cost of maps, charts pilot books, light/radio lists, etc.
  • crew's hire/wages or forage allowance in lieu
  • victualling or food costs (does not include tobacco and alcoholic beverages)
  • bunkering or oil/fuel costs.

This is an indicative rather than exhaustive list. If you are in doubt, you may enquire with the Department.

Source: http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Avia/Maritime/Importing-a-yacht

Now this clarifies things a bit – I bolded all the relevant info.

First it means we have to pay 5% duty on the purchase price, plus 10% GST (goods and services tax) on the customs value of the yacht. This “customs value” is the purchase price except for certain “circumstances”, one of them being “the original purchase price is too far removed in time.” I double checked and got the info that while it’s not specified in the rules customs generally requires boats which were purchased more than 3 months before “shipping” to be valued on arrival. This meant since we bought our sailboat more than 3 months before we left the U.S. we needed a survey.

We had our boat already in the shipyard to renew the bottom paint (antifouling) so we got a survey done at the same time. The surveyor asked for $650.- AUD and got the survey report with the evaluation.  

Now the customs guys in Brisbane (see address above) were super helpful and send me an excel spreadsheet which made the evaluation straight forward:

 

However the whole yacht importation idea is based on the commercial goods import permit system. So you have to include the “Essential Sailing Costs” into the formula. We calculated what we spend based on the fastest possible way we could have sailed to Australia from the U.S., which we estimated is 3 months.

 

Step 3: Contact the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities to determine if a Pre-Charged Equipment (PCE) Licence is required for your vessel. http://www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/ozone/licences/vehicle-import.html

It seems this law was introduced when the Ozone hole over Antarctica was getting bigger and bigger and Australia was worried that their citizens will soon be fried alive when they hit the beach. Now luckily the 1987 phase out of chlorine-containing gases, called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were the main ozone layer killers caused the ozone hole to shrink (see Hole in the ozone layer is finally 'healing').

Anyway the law still exists but there is an exception which worked for our yacht:

http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/ozone/licences/exemptions

Exemption for the import of personal ODS/SGG equipment

An ODS/SGG equipment licence is not required for equipment that has been:

  1. owned for more than 12 months, for private or domestic use before importation; and
  2. is imported for private or domestic use in Australia.
  3. does not contain a banned substance or system which may not be licenced or imported into Australia ( e.g. a CFC or system that operates on CFC charged or uncharged) .

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service are responsible for the control of these items at the point of import and Customs officers may require that you supply documentary evidence to demonstrate that the conditions for the personal use exemption are met.

Documentary evidence can include:

  1. Copy of vehicle registration papers or a copy of the purchase invoice
  2. Export Bill of Lading listing household and personal items that you are importing into Australia
  3. A statutory declaration to the effect that the equipment was used wholly or principally for private or domestic use before importation, and is imported wholly or principally for private or domestic use.

If documentary evidence is required, you will need to supply documentation within 30 days of being notified. If satisfied with the documentary evidence, the Department will approve the release of the equipment without the need for an ODS/SGG equipment licence, subject to the usual requirements of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Failure to supply documentary evidence will trigger the licence requirements under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989.

Source: http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/ozone/licences/exemptions

I highlighted the main points above in red, and one has to keep in mind that all 3 points have to be meet. We owned our boat for more than 12 months for private use, imported it privately and installed the U.S. bought fridge in 2013, so there is zero chance the refrigerant contains CFC. Thus we went with this exception.

Step 4: Complete the following documentation:

- B319 – “Registering as a Client in the Integrated Cargo System”

- B650 - “Import Declaration”

NOTE more info can be found here: http://www.border.gov.au/Busi/cargo-support-trade-and-goods/importing-goods/import-declarations

All forms are here: https://www.border.gov.au/about/corporate/information/forms/departmental-forms

So I downloaded the forms. The client registration form B319 is quick to complete since it only asks for your personal data (name, address, phone etc.)

The import declaration form B650 is a bit more involved, so let’s have a look.

Page 1: The form starts very easy by asking for your name, but the next field the “Owner ID” brought me already to a full stop. Now this can be an Australian Business Number (ABN) or the CCID. The latter will be created by the Integrated Cargo System to “identify persons or organisations which do not have or chose not to use an ABN”. This meant, so I thought, that I had to submit from B319 first to get a CCID which I then could use on this form B650. So I emailed the completed and signed form B319 and my 100 points of identification to Customs and Border Protection in Brisbane (Personal Effects Sea - Brisbane pebneATborder.gov.au). A few days later I got a reply email saying that: Your application for “Registering as a client in the Integrated Cargo System” has been processed . . . your CCID should be used where it asks for Owner ID, Reporting Party ID or CCID (Customs Client ID). So with my brand new CCID in hand I went back to form B650 and completed the “Owner ID” box.

Owner reference: I just made this up and called it “0001”, since this is my first boat import :-)
Biosecurity inspection: We had ours when we cleared into the country in Bundaberg, so I put that down.
Below the contact details we run into the
Destination Port Code: This is defined as the place where the goods were or will be unloaded in Australia. Now my “good” is our boat, so there is nothing to unload. I made a wild guess here and entered the closest port of entry to our marina which is Brisbane, Australia – done! Well, no that would really be too easy! So to challenge the applicant a bit more they want you to enter the correct UN/Locode – which are hidden somewhere on this website: www.unece.org. Well, I found the Australians Locodes here: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/cefact/locode/au.htm and for Brisbane I picked this one “AU BNE”.

Invoice Term Type: They want an Invoice Term (Incoterm) here and apparently FOB or CIF are used – so what’s that: Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) and Free on Board (FOB) are international shipping agreements used in the transportation of goods between a buyer and a seller. I got the info from customs that I should use CIF, so I did.

Valuation Advice Number: Apparently you get such a number when you seek advice from Customs to evaluate your goods. I didn’t do that so I left this blank.

Valuation date: This is normally the date the goods were exported from overseas, but our boat was evaluated in a survey just a week ago, so I entered the date of this survey.

EFT payment: Apparently you have to complete another form to be allowed to say yes here (registration form B320) – screw that! So I said NO.

Now we come to the boat valuation:
Invoice Total: This is the total sum of all invoices, so I entered the boats value provided by the surveyor.

Cost, Insurance & Freight: These are the costs for freight to transport/ sail our boat to Australia. So I used the value “Total” summarizing the “Essential Sailing Costs” on the excel spread sheet.

Free on Board:
I left this blank since only “Cost, Insurance & Freight” or “Free on Board” is required (see below).

Page 2: Section B asks for the relevant mode of transport. Since we sailed our boat to Australia I completed the “SEA” section. However this from seems to be intended for cargo ships transporting goods so some questions don’t make much sense for yachts:

Yacht Import Declaration Australia

Voyage No.: I am not a shipping line so I don’t have that, so I left it blank.
Loading Port: That’s the “UN/Locode for the place at which the goods were loaded on to a ship”. Doesn’t make any sense for sailing yacht imports but I entered our last port before we came to Australia. In our case this was Noumea, New Caledonia which has the Locode “NC  NOU ” (see here: http://www.unece.org/cefact/locode/service/location ).

First Arrival Port: This is the “UNLocode for the first Australian port the ship will, or did, arrive at from a place outside Australia” so Bundaberg in our case, which has the Lcode “AU  BDB ”.

Discharge Port: This is the “UN/Locode for the first Australian port where goods will be, or were, unloaded”. Now bloody idea how that relates to a sailboat, so I just entered the closest port of entry here again – which is Brisbane with the Locode “AU BNE” (see here: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/cefact/locode/au.htm ).

The fields for first arrival date, and gross weight in tons were easy to complete. The code for the gross weight unit is “LT” which stands for Tons (UK) or Long Ton (US).

Line No.: This is seriously just the line number, so I entered “1”

Cargo Type: This indicates “whether the goods are containerised, non-containerised or bulk”. I found this table online on the customs webpage (see below) so my best guess was BLK, Bulk.

11.11 Cargo Type

Code

Description

LCL

Less than Container load

FCL

Full Container load

FCX

Full Container load with multiple house bills

B/B

Break bulk

BLK

Bulk

Source: http://www.border.gov.au/Busi/cargo-support-trade-and-goods/cargo-support

I left container no., ocean bill, and house bill blank and entered “1” into the number of packages, since I am importing one boat.

Marks & Numbers Description: Here they want “package marks and carton/box numbers for all packages and any other identifying marks and brands on the packages. I entered “sailing yacht” just for the fun of it and to see what happens.

Then I completed the Delivery Address section at the bottom of the page with our address – the marina where we live aboard our boat

 

Page 3: Here we come to the Tariff Details which is a major exercise in bureaucracy, list comparisons and a test to see how dedicated the applicant really is to complete the form. So here is what I did.

Line No.: It starts of easy, the form just asks for a line number again, so I entered “1”. I am not sure if this is a test to see if you are a human being or a robot, or a strategic hurdle to filter out people who are overthinking this bureaucracy exercise. Anyway just enter one and move on.  

Supplier ID: The form asks again for the Customs Client Identifier (CCID) which I got after submitting form B319.

Supplier Name: That’s the name of the supplier of the goods. Since I am supplying my own good to myself, I entered my name.

Tariff Classification No.: A eight-digit tariff classification “as specified in Schedule 3 of the Customs Tariff Act 1995 (the Tariff).” Finally the fun starts, who doesn’t love a challenge!
To get the Tariff classification No. I followed the link to the current classification (http://www.border.gov.au/Busi/cargo-support-trade-and-goods/importing-goods/tariff-classification-of-goods/current-tariff-classification) and found out that the classification consist of 12 parts (schedules) and schedules 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 provide rates of duty – great there goes my entire weekend!

What I found is that, first you have to go to schedule 3 to find the right category – I ended up in:
Schedule 3 > Section XVII > Chapter 89 “Chapter 89 - Ships, boats and floating structures”

Going down the list, we find a yacht (8903), which is a sailboat (8903.91) and it doesn’t exceed 150 gross tons so we end up with the classification number 8903.91.10 with statistical code 40 (see image below). So we have to pay 5% duty – however if our vessel would be a superyacht (over 150 gross tons) we would pay nothing – but unfortunately we are not millionaires so we have to pay our fees.

The form didn’t like 8903.91.10 so I entered it without the dots as “89039110” followed by the statistical code 40.

Related Transaction Indication: You are supposed to check this box if there is a relationship between the supplier of the goods and the owner. Since “I” am 100% related to myself I confidently checked this box.

Valuation Basis Type: Here we have to select the code of the method we used to determine the customs value of the goods. The options are a) CV – Computed Value, b) DV – Deductive Value, c) FB – Fall Back Value, d) IG – Identical Goods, e) SG – Similar Goods, f) TV – Transaction Value. My best guess here was a) CV – Computed Value since I used a spread sheet supplied by customs to calculate/compute the value.

Treatment Code: This is for goods subject to a concessional item in Schedule 4 (see link below). One can claim boats designed for use in sheltered waters for sport or recreation, but oceangoing vessels are not on the list so I left this blank.
(http://www.border.gov.au/Busi/cargo-support-trade-and-goods/importing-goods/tariff-classification-of-goods/current-tariff-classification/schedule-4/part-ii-instruments-issued-to-items-in-schedule-4#personal )

GST Exemption Code: For goods which are exempt from GST. This includes among others incontinence appliances, artificial eyes, shower supports and lactose but unfortunately not sailing yachts. I left it blank.

Goods Description: I just entered “34ft sailing vessel”, quantity “1” and unit “BN” for bulk.

Valuation Elements Type, Amount, Currency: The invoice amount and currency code for the goods relating to this line only. I entered the boats value provided by the surveyor here, again.

Origin Country: The code for the country in which the goods were made, produced – in my case the U.S. with code “US”.

I left all three “Preference” boxes blank.

Treatment Instruments: Needs to be completed if a treatment code applies to the goods. I didn’t find any treatments for yachts so I left all the treatment and tariff instrument boxes blank.

Step 5: The following completed documentation can be posted, faxed or emailed to:

Brisbane Client Services

Customs and Border Protection Service

GPO Box 1464

Brisbane Qld 4001

Fax 07 3835 3479

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • B319 - “Registering as a Client in the Integrated Cargo System” – if you haven’t done this already.
  • B650 - "Import Declaration"
  • A copy of the vessels bill of sale or independent valuation
  • A copy of the vessel registration
  • 100 points of Identification

Be aware that customs can ask you for documents to proof any of the claims made on the form B650:

You must be able to produce, when required, any relevant documents relating to the import. This may include a Bill of Sale, purchase documents, invoices, insurance papers, proof of ownership, length of ownership, residential status and details of freight movements and charges.

After the receipt of complete and accurate documents, Customs aims to advise by the close of business of the next working day on whether the goods can be cleared, further information is required, or a further Customs examination is required.

Step 6: The advice will contain an "Import Declaration Number" (IDN) that you will need to provide to the following Agencies:

  • Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) to make arrangements for any Quarantine Treatments required.
  • Department of Sustainability & Environment for the PCE Licence (if applicable). – Didn’t apply to me since I claimed an ”exemption for the import of personal ODS/SGG equipment”, see above.

Step 7: Prior to the expiry of your PCE, email the Licence Number to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Step 8: A Payment Advice will be issued to you and payment can be made.

 

Step 9: Once payment has been cleared the Customs process will be complete and an “Authority to Deal” will be provided.

Now, this is how I applied for a permit to import my boat into Australia, but please be aware that there are probably some things I didn’t get right …

Good luck in publishing your work!

 

 

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