Australian Border Force, Biosecurity and Dangerous Goods Training


This week we will be looking at the importance of mandatory Dangerous Goods Training for aviation operators and those responsible for packaging and transporting pathology specimens (shippers). We will also examine how Australian Border Force Officers and Biosecurity Officers work to protect our borders from unsafe substances and goods.

What does the Australian Border Force do?

According to their website, the Australian Border Force (ABF):

” Protects our Australian borders and enables legitimate travel and trade. In addition, they safeguard our border from people who seek to commit immigration fraud or threaten Australia’s safety and security.”

Border Force Officers are everywhere there are borders. They perform a variety of essential jobs in all of Australia’s regional and international airports, along with many locations where international air cargo or airmail is delivered. ABF is an operationally independent body under the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs portfolio.

According to Michael Outram, APM, Commissioner of Australian Border Force, in a 2020 Freight Trade Alliance “Across Borders Magazine” article, Border watch is the primary reporting mechanism for the community and industry to report suspicious border, customs, and immigration-related activity.

“Avoiding customs duties gives those who do the wrong thing an unfair competitive advantage over legitimate businesses. Smuggling counterfeit goods can also have serious health and safety risks for our community. Almost all counterfeit electronic goods that we have detected, for example, have subsequently been found not to contain heat retardants or other essential safety features to prevent fires and electrocution. It is our mission to keep building a prosperous, secure, and united Australia.”

ABF was quick to implement enhanced border control measures to minimise the risk of the Novel Coronavirus spreading to Australia following the outbreak in China on 1 February 2020. They also implemented the safe return to Australia of vulnerable Australian citizens isolated in China’s Hubei Province. 

Around 25% of officers carry guns and sometimes use detector dog teams to identify illegal or prohibited goods at the airport. Australian Border Force Detector dogs are trained to find illicit drugs, currency, explosives, firearms, and tobacco in a range of operational environments, including airports. They can screen large volumes of people and goods quickly and efficiently.

Biosecurity Officers

ABF work in conjunction with industry and the Department of Agriculture Biosecurity Officers to x-ray or inspect baggage, cargo, and airmail. They search for items that could put Australia’s security, economy, environment, or health at risk.

They may seize prohibited goods and border-controlled substances, or the Biosecurity Officers may step in if they present a biosecurity risk to Australia. 

Protect our borders to help ABF

To assist our Border Force Officers and Biosecurity Officers and protect your operation and its people, those who operate within Australia’s civil aviation industry and the transportation of biological goods are responsible for ensuring they complete compulsory training in the shipment of dangerous goods by air, renewed every two years.

Everyday items shipped that would require this training include

  • animal specimens
  • plant materials
  • tissues samples
  • dry ice for refrigerating samples,
  • bloods,
  • ethanol solutions
  • human or animal samples

Can some of these items be packed in hand luggage?

A common misconception is that most of these items can be hand-carried (in checked baggage or hand luggage on a flight). Shipping these items in such a way is illegal. To ship such items by air throughout Australia and overseas requires that you are a trained shipper and will ship these items as per the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations and the requirements of the countries of origin transit, and destination.

Who needs training?

The following operators must undertake mandatory Dangerous Goods Awareness and Acceptance of Non-Dangerous Goods Course (DGA Course) accredited by CASA:

  • Air Operators
  • Freight Forwarders
  • Security Screeners
  • Ground Handling Agents (GHAs)
  • Australian Operators with Overseas Based Employees
  • Foreign Operators with Employees Based in Australia

According to Subpart 92.C of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations, any employee or deemed employee is required to undertake a Dangerous Goods Awareness and Acceptance of Non-Dangerous Goods Course (DGA Course) if they:

  • Accept cargo consigned for transport or supervise someone whose duties include receiving such shipment at any time after it leaves the custody of the original consignor.
  • Handle cargo, supervise a person who handles cargo before or after it is loaded on or unloaded off an aircraft.
  • Load or unload cargo from an aircraft or supervise a person who loads and unloads cargo from an aircraft.
  • Act as a member of the aircraft’s flight crew.
  • Serve as a member of the aircraft’s cabin crew.
  • Carry out duties relating to the handling and security screening of passengers carried on an aircraft.
  • Handle passengers’ checked and carry-on baggage, supervise someone whose responsibilities include handling such baggage, or
  • Are a load planner.

Training is also essential for all the staff responsible for packaging for transport pathology specimens. They require training and evaluation to demonstrate that they are competent enough to handle biologically hazardous shipments.

Your responsibility is to ensure the goods you handle can be imported or exported and meet the relevant requirements under Australian law. It is strictly prohibited to transport some goods into Australia or interstate. You can find a list of prohibited goods here.

Are there penalties for exporting prohibited goods without permission?

Suppose you import or export prohibited goods without the relevant written permission, training, or licence. In that case, Australian Border Force Officers or Biosecurity Officers could seize your goods, and you could face penalties of up to 2,500 penalty units or ten years imprisonment, or both.

The CASA will also investigate, and you may face other charges and penalties resulting from not shipping your goods appropriately, using trained personnel and following aviation federal and international shipping laws.

Operators and shippers must maintain training records and reproduce them when requested by relevant authorities.

How can CAAA keep your operation current?

CAAA can deliver the Dangerous Goods Awareness and Acceptance of Non-Dangerous Goods Course (DGA Course) or the Safe Transport of Infectious Substances by Air Course (Shippers Training) straight to your inbox. Our courses are accessible 24/7 via our website.

The online correspondence course includes:

  • A full-colour Course Workbook and set of Review Questions.
  • Facilitator support whilst completing the course.
  • Certificate of Approval upon completion plus a personalised Feedback Sheet with answers to Review Questions.
  • Free Zoom call with your facilitator
  • Updates and changes made to the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations during your 2-year currency; and
  • Renewal Notification 3 months before the expiry of the certificate.

Contact our professional and helpful consultants today if you have any queries. We are only too happy to assist.

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