Shipping & Logistics

Speed & Cost Over Provenance

Rather than ‘where’ a product comes from, Australians are far more interested in how quickly it can reach them and therefore consideration needs to be given to the volume of transactions being imported into Australia and the channels used.As a non-Australian e-retailer reaches critical mass and transactions increase, the supply chain model used will need to adapt to a physical distribution presence. A typical supplier will start off sending individual products.

Traditionally most individual deliveries into Australia will have been made through the postal routes with Aus Post as the local delivery link providing:

  • Economy – 3 to 5 day delivery with ‘signature on delivery’ and ‘safe place’ options
  • Express – next day delivery to about 80% of the country and with the option of additional on line tracking (Premium)
  • Collection at the Post Office
  • Or by using services provided by the big global integrators (TNT, UPS, DHL, Fed Ex) mainly providing Express services, some with time slot delivery options.

However neither the slower postal route nor the more expensive ‘courier’ route were ideally suited to the needs of cross-border ecommerce.Over the past few years we have seen the emergence of direct access solutions where orders from many retailers are consolidated in the country of origin, flown in bulk to the country of destination (customs cleared on the way if necessary) and handed to a local deliver partner for the ‘final leg’. These services are tracked all the way and are faster than post and cheaper that express. In addition, Australian Customs allows for purchasers and importers to ‘self-declare’ cross-border transactions and service providers are increasingly providing services that enable declarations to be made whilst goods are in transit; reducing processing time, paperwork and improving the competitiveness of cross-border merchants.wnDirect is the forerunner of these services and shipped almost 50,000 individual parcels to Australia in August 2015 alone, on behalf of UK e-retailers. This type of solution provides an ideal bridge to the point where a retailer may eventually move to importing container loads of product with a view to utilising a local 3PL solution, finally setting up their own logistics, warehouse, and distribution solution. A larger importer may take the option of making application for their own licensed depot, warehousing and customs broker facilities located in Australia. [1]

Retailers offering fast and inexpensive shipping can very quickly gain themselves a competitive advantage as Australians are used to ‘waiting’ even for domestic purchases. The promise of delivery within a specified time frame is not enough; online shoppers in Australia also expect an element of choice when it comes to delivery options. In fact research suggests that, despite the delivery distances involved in this huge country, 94% of Australian e-shoppers expect to have various delivery options. Rapidly catching up with the demanding approach seen in other countries, Australian online shoppers no longer simply expect their packages to get to them within a decent period of time, they want more. Once orders arrive ‘in country’ it is worth considering where the demand is and what mechanisms will be required to service this custom. In 2014, the National Australia Bank reported a detailed breakdown of which regions made up the online shopping population. [2]


For such a vast country, Australia boasts a surprisingly world class logistics and infrastructure system. Its LPI score is ranked 19th in the world by the World Bank. Situated a great distance from its international markets, Australia has built a major multimodal transport system (across water, land and air) to facilitate international trade. There are 25 major ports in Australia linked by road, air, rail, and coastal shipping. This set up makes it easy to access the market with cross border goods. [3]


Customs advises consumers “If you have physically received the goods and paid Customs duty on goods imported but they were returned them to the supplier because, “I changed my mind”, “they don’t fit”, or “I don’t like them” then a refund on duty is not available under current legislation. However, as an alternative option if you export the imported goods, subject to certain conditions, you may be entitled to a drawback of the duty paid.” [4]

Australian consumers expect to be able to return unwanted goods and receive a replacement or credit with the minimum of fuss or delay. [5]

Imports Duties

Australia has a rigorous set of customs clearance regulations and procedural requirements that e-retailers should educate themselves on prior to commencing trade. It is recommended that e-retailers seek professional advice from Licensed Customs Brokers or Freight forwarders especially for those transactions over $1000 AUD. Within Australia customs clearance is strictly exercised and occurs before goods are released to the purchaser/ owner from clearance centres. As Australia is surrounded by water without physical borders with other countries, all goods are imported either by Sea, or Air Cargo or International Post (the carrier of which is Australia Post within Australia). Therefore Ports, Airports are the entry points for Cargo (the majority of which are in Metropolitan Cities) into Australia with clearance centres (licensed depots and warehouses being situated around these areas). Generally speaking all declarations, permits, taxes and duties are the responsibility of the owner/ purchaser of the goods and must be provided and paid prior to goods being released. There is some variation depending on the value of the goods whether they are a B2C or B2B arrangement.

B2B and B2C Goods under $1,000 AUD The majority of overseas internet transactions will be B2C, under $1000 AUD and will be delivered by International Post (the carrier being Australia Post within Australia). A customs broker would not be required. These goods may be imported free of customs duties and taxes (except Alcohol and Tobacco) with only a parcel declaration needing to be completed. Australia Post will deliver the goods straight to the consumer. A permit is required for restricted goods. For goods being delivered via air freight or sea freight, the system is slightly more complex with the same rules applying except these goods must be reported to Customs and Border Protection on a Self-Assessed Clearance (SAC) declaration. SAC declarations are usually made on the consumers behalf by the freight forwarder handling the consignment but sometimes the supplier may be required to make a SAC declaration. SAC declarations can only be made electronically to Customs and Border Protection via the Integrated Cargo System (ICS). The owner may need to use a licensed customs broker or service provider to make SAC declarations on a fee for service basis. [18]

B2B and B2C Goods under $1,000 AUD For goods over the value of a $1,000 the customs clearance system becomes slightly more complex again. These goods will require an Import Declaration to be lodged electronically via the Customs Integrated Cargo System (ICS). Duty and/or taxes will more than likely be payable. The responsibility for this sits with the owner of the goods. This could be the a) consumer purchasing over the internet from the supplier (B2C); b) One business from another ( B2B); or c) one business importing containers into Australia to distribute through a physical presence i.e. either online or via a retail outlet. [6]

According to Customs law, an owner of imported goods may be the importer, someone who holds themselves out to be the owner, someone who has a beneficial interest in the goods or someone who has control of the goods. Note that there is no requirement for companies or individuals to hold an import license, however, they must be able to have a good understanding of Australian Customs law, permits, prohibited goods, product labelling requirements and information on tariffs and hence duties and taxes available as well access to the ICS system. Many choose to have a licensed customs broker facilitate the Import Declaration and assist in dealing with all obligations with the importation of their goods. Brokers provide their services on a fee for service basis. Employees may also act on an owner’s behalf to make import declarations provided they are not also an employee of another entity.

When goods are imported they will be assessed for customs duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10%. The rate of duty depends on the nature of the goods and is determined by the Tariff classification of the goods (Customs Tariff Act 1995). The duty, if any, is calculated on the customs value of the goods. The customs value is usually the price paid and converted to Australian dollars. Customs and Border Protection may require the owner to produce receipts or invoices etc. to substantiate that the customs value claimed applies. GST (at a rate of 10%) is also calculated on the Value of the Taxable Importation known as the VoTI.

The VoTi is the sum of: • the customs value • any duty payable; and • The amount paid or payable to transport the goods to Australia and to insure the goods for that transport.

To obtain a Tariff Classification and an exact duty rate, refer to the Customs Tariff. [7]

Typical process with financial and logistics considerations involves:

• Check if goods are prohibited, or require a permit for completion and lodgement.

• Assess value of goods under or over $1000 AUD.

• Consider use of a licenced customs broker, and logistics carrier (Air, Sea or International Post).

• Assess tariffs and hence duties payable and other taxes (GST, Wine Equalisation, Luxury Car, Other).

• Engage Carrier / Logistics Solution.

• Legal confirmation of goods for entry into the country: Import Declaration completed by importer submitted via ICS system; SAC declaration or Australia Post Declaration.

• Confirmation of product prices: Calculation can be completed by Importer, confirmed via ICS system when goods arrived in Australia and cleared. Duties and Taxes are now payable.

• Consider warehousing, storage and insurance fees. Customs Clearance System

The customs clearance system largely relies on purchasers and importers self-declaring and regulating incorporating the paperwork and declaration process. Most goods are held up in the clearance process due to the assessment of value (over $1000 AUD), the goods being of a prohibited nature, incomplete paperwork or payment. It takes up to five working days from receipt of completed documents for Customs to process the import declaration. It may also take up to three working days to process any payments made re duties and taxes with goods being held in a depot or warehouse. By Law this may happen indefinitely until payment is received, however the individual bonded warehouse or depot may have their own regulations, restrictions and fees for goods held. There are a number of service providers, such as wnDirect, that provide a ‘wheels-up’ clearance system whereby the required records are completed whilst the goods are in transit; speeding up the processing time on landing. [8]


  1. eCommerce worldwide. Australia Passport 2015
  2. eCommerce worldwide. Australia Passport 2015
  3. EshopWorld "Australian eCommerce Insights"
  4. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. "eCommerce in Australia"
  5. Australia Post Whitepaper: Returns, 2013
  6. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. "eCommerce in Australia"
  7. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. "eCommerce in Australia"
  8. eCommerce Worldwide. Australia Country Guide. "eCommerce in Australia"

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