'Whale Knows' - Importing To Australia For Beginners: Tips, Pros and Cons

'Whale Knows' - Importing To Australia For Beginners: Tips, Pros and Cons

In 2016 Australia imported $181B, making it the 21st largest importer in the world. For importers to understand the complex risks of importing to Australia, Natalia, our Business Development Manager, goes through some tips and tricks on the topic.


Around 60-70% of Australian imports come from Asia pacific, with 35% from China; followed by the Americas, which is a mere 6%. It is important to understand the rules and regulations of both the country of origin as well as Australia when importing goods. Why? Australia has very strict border protection rules in place. The country is a floating continent, and diseases can be widespread if not contained at border. Australians also like to protect their wildlife, hence why strict rules about plant and animal based products are in place.

imports australia

Source: OEC Australia

It’s important to consider these rules before choosing an importing product to Australia. A simple way to do this is to talk to your customs broker on what you can and cannot import. Moreover, the rules are always changing, so it’s important to have a good customs broker or freight forwarder to update you with regulations and compliance steps. On the other hand, if the right documents are not supplied, there is a very high chance your goods can be wasted when it arrives at the Australian border.

Despite the barricading rules re imports, the Australian government has made it easy for importers to benefit from its various free trade agreements. Read up on whether your goods are eligible for a duty or tax deduction, as this can very much affect your bottom line. Moreover, you will need a Certificate of Origin in order to inherit these benefits. The most prepared importers will have these documents ready even before origin departure, in order to avoid delays. Not only that, Australian counterparts will charge you a higher fee for storage, etc. when these documents are not prepared and given to your broker beforehand.

It’s also important to have the right freight forwarder and customs broker.

You can still have a random check on your container or cargo even though you have adequate documentation. It is part of the border protection code of conduct to make sure that these sweeps are done diligently. Aside from reducing delays, your broker can quickly solve problems on the ground while you focus on what you are best at in your business. Furthermore, a great customs customs broker can help you with claiming duty free goods, or apply for a duty refund should your goods fall in the right requirements. It’s best to talk to us before you ship so we can advise you of the type of customs or duty assessment that is required for your goods.

Should you import to Australia via air freight for sea freight?

It depends. Read through our previous articles on our Whale Knows series to find what the best option is for you regarding your suitability for air freight or sea freight. However, keep in mind that the major differences are the transit time and rates. Air freight and sea freight rates can vary depending on what you import. It also depends on the density of the freight as well as the urgency of the freight.

If under 200kg, air freight may be more suitable (depending on how fast you want the goods shipped). Transit times will depend on how many stops your flight is making. Usually a direct transit flight will take 1-2 days to arrive to Australia from anywhere in the world.

On the other hand, you get reduced rates on sea freight – and remember, the more legs (legs = stops) you have in your sea freight journey, the higher risk you bear, but also the cheaper your rates. The broad average transit time for sea freight is around 14-15 days, depending on where it goes from and to. This estimation does not include vessel unloading times, customs clearance, and so on.


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Whale Logistics are Australia’s leading Freight Forwarder and Logistics company located in Sydney and Melbourne. We deliver digital-focused freight forwarding services such as Australian customs parcel tracking, parcel delivery box, and comprehensive ocean, air and road freight solutions. For cost competitive and innovative freight forwarding solutions, or if you want to get in touch with one of our Customer Success Managers, drop us a line and we will be in touch shortly.

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