"Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family." - Kofi Annan
01 February 2019 

TCO Gazette Links

News Headlines

Chinese New Year
Our offices in China and Hong Kong will be closed for the Chinese New Year break. Suppliers in China will also be taking time off during the festive season to celebrate the year of the pig. Please ensure that you have organised your shipments accordingly.

Joint Agency Drug Operation
Eight people were arrested in Melbourne earlier this year as part of a joint operation targeting an organised crime syndicate allegedly responsible for the importation of over $20 million worth of illicit drugs into Australia.

Operation Sunrise commenced back in August 2018, focusing on the importation and subsequent trafficking of high grade heroin into Melbourne. It is alleged that the syndicate was bringing drugs into Australia from Malaysia using an international airline cabin crew as a courier. The alleged offenders are linked to the trafficking of at least 6kgs of high grade heroin and 8kgs of methamphetamine during the five month operation.

Since 8 January 2019, seven search warrants were executed by the Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF), comprising of members from the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, with assistance from the Victoria Police Drug Taskforce. The properties targeted were located across the Melbourne suburbs of Richmond (two properties), Southbank, Abbotsford, Sunshine North (two properties) and Melbourne CBD.

Eight people have been arrested as part of this operation and charged with a number of offences relating to the importation and trafficking of border controlled drugs. A number of items were also seized during the operation including the following:

  • 6kg heroin or approx. 42,000 hits with a street value of $14.5M
  • 8kg methamphetamine with a street value of $6.4M
  • Approximately 0.5kg cocaine
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Vehicles including a Porsche Macan and Mini Cooper
  • Significant quantity of cash
  • Crime Command Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh said the successful outcome of this operation sends a strong message that police and other law enforcement agencies remain strongly focused on disrupting those criminal groups bringing drugs into the Victorian community. “This was a well organised syndicate we know had operated across Australia undetected for many years,” she said. “The amount of heroin alone involved in this investigation amounts to almost fifty thousand thousand hits in real terms. “We know the harm that drugs bring – not just the physical and health impacts on users, but the negative flow on effects to the broader community such as property crime, assaults and drug driving. “This operation has been about ensuring that those within this group are held accountable for their criminal actions and show that police will actively work to disrupt the activities of those willing to bring drugs into Victoria."

    Australian Border Force Regional Commander Victoria, Craig Palmer, said the arrests highlight the effectiveness of Australia’s multi-layered, multi-agency approach to targeting illicit drug imports. “Would-be criminals should be aware that any attempts to bring these drugs into the country will be met with the full force of Australian border and law enforcement agencies, before, at and after the border,” Commander Palmer said. “Airline staff are not above the law. They are subject to intervention at the border like everyone else and face significant penalties if they are found to be using their positions to attempt to circumvent our border controls."

    Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Acting Executive Director Intelligence Operations Jason Halls said this outcome is a strong example of the value of intelligence sharing between the ACIC and partner agencies. “By working together we are seeing significant results in preventing illicit drugs from reaching the community and we will continue to target the serious and organised crime groups who bring these drugs into the country, with no regard for the harm they cause,” he said.

    Government Proposes Biosecurity Import Levy
    Biosecurity risks are changing as import volumes increase and pathways become faster and more complex. The government is proposing to implement a levy on imports by sea to invest in a stronger, fit-for-purpose biosecurity system.

    In 2017, the Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system: an independent review into the capacity of the nation identified that resourcing the biosecurity system was a significant challenge and recommended the introduction of a new levy to address the need for additional revenue to fund activities.

    The Australian government has proposed the introduction of the Biosecurity Import Levy in the 2018-19 Budget, with an estimated $325 million to be raised over three years from a commencement date of 1 July 2019. The imposed levy refers to an amount set at $10.02 per twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) and $1 per tonne for non-containerised cargo, with stevedores and port operators to be the collection agents. The levy would contribute to onshore surveillance, diagnostic, data analytics, research and adoption of new technology to help to detect, identify and respond to exotic pest and diseases earlier and ensure goods are moved into Australia safely and more efficiently.

    For further information regarding the levy please refer to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.

    Cocaine Smuggler Extradited from Serbia
    A 35-year-old Australian national was extradited from Serbia to Australia one year after being arrested for attempting to smuggle 1.28 tonnes of cocaine concealed in a shipping container into Sydney.

    Authorities intercepted the shipment over 18 months ago at Sydney, with the ABF valuing the 2576 intercepted blocks of cocaine hidden in a shipment of pre-fabricated steel at $500 million.

    The man is one of three extradited from Serbia in connection to the importation, uncovered by Operation Amorgos, an Australian Federal Police-led investigation.

    Australian Federal Police (AFP) acting manager of organised crime Commander Peter Bodel said that the AFP’s goal is to target organised crime at its upper management levels. “The cooperation we have received from our colleagues in Serbia has been critical in initiating prosecutions against people we allege played a key role in one of the largest shipments of cocaine ever seized in Australia,” Commander Bodel said.

    The man in custody is a former resident of the United Arab Emirates and is facing three charges before Sydney Central Local Court including importing, conspiring to import and the procession of border controlled drugs.

    BMSB Italy Fumigation Providers Update
    The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said there was no indication that Italian heat treatment providers ceased treating Australia-bound cargo in solidarity with three suspended providers: Nuova Cianidrica SRL, Radit SRL and La Spezia Container Terminal (LSCT).

    DAWR suspended the providers in late 2018 due to detections of live brown marmorated stink bugs on consignments they had treated.

    A departmental spokesperson advised that the department subsequently sent advice to all registered offshore heat treatment providers to ensure requirements were known, understood and complied with.

    “Following this correspondence, Italian heat treatment providers ceased conducting and certifying treatments. The decision for all Italian treatment providers to cease heat treating goods in Italy was not made by the department,” the spokesperson said on Friday of last week.

    “Italian Fumigation Association members advised that they had ceased treating goods until they had the opportunity to meet with departmental representatives. This meeting occurred on 14 January, 2019.”

    The spokesperson also said departmental representatives advised heat treatments could continue to be performed by all registered providers, with the exception of the suspended providers.

    “Following audits and extensive discussions, the suspended heat treatment providers are in the process of being reinstated,” the spokesperson said.

    Last week, inspector-general of biosecurity for DAWR Dr Helen Scott-Orr announced a review into measures for dealing with BMSB.

    Also last week, ro-ro operator Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean said current regulations regarding BMSB management in Australia and New Zealand were inconsistent and ineffective after its vessel MV Thalatta was expelled from Australian waters after a discovery of bugs onboard.

    The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) Impact
    The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources(DAWR) have implemented widespread emergency measures on imported containers from the US, Italy, Germany, France and other high risk countries, via chemical fumigation or other approved treatment methods, to combat the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).

    While prevention is essential in safeguarding Australia from a major biosecurity threat, international trade has been severely impacted by the BMSB measures with major importers reporting significant disruptions to their international supply chain operations, as well as increased costs of importing essential consumer goods. In extreme cases, total cargo vessels and their loads are being turned away from Australian shores due to detection of the bug. Australia’s peak trade alliance has indicated that millions of dollars are being paid by importers, customs brokers and freight forwarders alike as a result of the processes involved to combat the BMSB.

    Director of the Freight and Trade Alliance(FTA), Paul Zalai stated that for those that have been fortunate to have their cargo arrive, many have been adversely affected by the onshore delays caused by inadequate offshore treatment, failure in government systems and processes and a local industry inadequately prepared to deal with the growing onshore treatment task. “The direct costs to importers imposed by stevedores for storage and in detention fees imposed by shipping lines for the late return of unpacked empty containers are rapidly escalating, adding to the costs associated with failure to meet supply demands," he said.

    Some freight forwarders have resorted to desperate and expensive measures by using a combination of sea cargo movements from origin and transhipping cargo at intermediary ports, using airfreight to land goods into Australia. While a legitimate practice, it is anticipated that it will only be a matter of time before cargo arriving by air faces similar biosecurity inspection (as that by sea), with the potential threat of bottlenecking major Australian international airports.

    “The problem is not going to go away. Indications from the department is that by next season (September to April) we will be talking about treatment of goods from high risk continents rather than high risk countries, such is the spread of the pest throughout Europe, Asia and other parts of the world” Zalai said.

    Port Infrastructure Fees
    Since January 1 2019, many terminals across Australia have increased their Terminal Infrastructure Levies and Time Slot Fees, some by up to 70%. In particular, the Wharf Infrastructure Levy for DP World has now increased to around $96 (almost double) as from 1st January. The price increases are directly from the terminals and booking systems they utilise and unfortunately transport operators are unable to absorb the costs, and have little choice but to pass these fees onto their clients.

    Friday Funnies
    A Chinese New Year joke to get you pumped for the year of the pig!