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In recent times, the ABF has issued more infringement notices for 77G depot non-compliance than any other area. The ABF has also repeatedly stated that cargo reporting and supply chain security are top priorities. The combination of increased audits and new depot license conditions means that it is more important than ever to ensure that your depot is fully compliant.

If the ABF was to arrive at your depot or warehouse tomorrow, would the ABF be able to identify any significant breaches? Below we detail some of the issues that the ABF regularly identify.

Security of the premises – The most basic expectation of a depot/warehouse is that it be secure. This sounds simple, but often operational efficiency can take over physical security. The ABF will have no tolerance for a gate or door that should be locked, being left open. Broken fences, windows and gates should be quickly repaired. It will be very easy for the ABF to review the CCTV footage and see how long the item has been unsecure.

Access to controlled areas – An area that is particularly easy for the ABF to audit is the extent to which only authorised individuals are accessing the controlled area. On an ABF visit the officer can simply obtain the identification of everyone in the licensed area and determined whether they are a permitted employee or a permitted visitor. It is a requirement that a record is made of any visitor’s full name, residential address and photo identification. We recommend regularly checking whether full records are being kept for each visit. It is vey easy to become relaxed with contractors, drivers and maintenance staff that regularly attend the warehouse.

Treatment of goods under customs control – The release of, or interference with, goods under customs control is an area that is of utmost concern to the ABF. Expect the ABF to review dispatch records and CCTV to identify whether a consignment has been released prior to the receipt of ABF approval. Similarly, the ABF can easily identify lost consignments. If a consignment has not been cleared from the depot within the required time period, you can expect that the ABF will ask to be shown the good. A failure to do so will amount to a failure to account for a good under customs control.

Cargo reporting timeframes  - An area that is becoming increasingly important for the ABF is timely cargo reporting and outturning of goods. The reporting requirements are different depending on whether the goods are sea or air freight and whether what is received is consolidated goods or a full container. It is important to assess what systems you have in place to ensure that the strict timeframes are being meet. This does not only mean reporting to the ABF, but also what systems are in place for following up with the consignor regarding excess or surplus cargo. All the information the ABF needs to assess non-compliance is already held in the ICS. It is easy for the ABF to identify non-compliance. The volume of goods or the fact that it was ecommerce airfreight will not be an excuse. The ABF have imposed a specific requirement that 77G depots have effective cargo accounting systems for all goods within the depot’s control. This means that operators should careful when attributing non-compliance to “system error”.

Updating information  -  On request, a depot holder must provide the ABF with an up to date staff list including address, position, date of birth, details of the current form of ID and their ASIC/MSIC card.  Would your depot be fully compliant if the ABF was to attend the depot/warehouse tomorrow, request this employee list and then check it against the staff that are present in the depot? In addition to staff lists, you must also within 30 days notify the ABF if someone new starts participating in the management or control of the depot. Other notice requirements include: notice of loss or damage to ABF signage (within 7 days), any breaches of security at the premises (within 24 hours) or a substantial change affecting the security of the premises (24 hours). If an issue is identified during an audit it is relatively easy for the ABF to identify when the breach occurred and if a related notice requirement was not met.

What to do before an audit

Our experience is that few licensed depots and warehouses pass ABF audits with flying colours. This is a largely a result in a tightening of expectations by the ABF, massive increases in ecommerce volumes and, at times, inconsistency between ABF expectations, published guidelines, the legislation and the capabilities of the ICS.

To best prepare for an audit we recommend:

  1. Review you license conditions and application for a depot / warehouse. Remind yourself regularly of your statutory obligations and the security commitments you made in your application.

  2. Put in place operating procedures aimed at ensuring compliance. These procedures may relate to cargo reporting, responding to a security incident or individuals accessing the premises. The procedures should be communicated to staff and accompanied by training.

  3. Implement a detailed quality assurance program.  This program should cover all compliance issues. It should be regularly carried out with the results reported to senior individuals within the organisation. Where non-compliance is identified, procedures and training should be reviewed. It may also be necessary to consider making voluntary disclosure of non-compliance to the ABF.

CGT Law has considerable experience helping depot and warehouses deal with potential non-compliance including resisting ABF cancellation notices and infringement notices. Please contact us if you are concerned about the level of compliance in your depot.


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