Charges and Fees That You Are Responsible for When Your Shipment Arrives in Australia

Moved to Australia From the USA

I have covered what our Australia shipping quote included in a post here but what our quote did not include is of equal significance.

Port Handling Charges and Destination GST in Australia.

Once your shipment arrives in Australia, you will be responsible for the Port Handling and Destination GST (Goods and Services Tax) Charges. In our quote above, you will notice the shipping company gave us an estimate of the Port Handling Charge in red based on the two estimated volumes of our shipment.

There is no way to get around these charges as all shipping ports have fees.

Your quote may refer to these charges as Destination Port Fees, Terminal Handling Charges (THC), or a Destination Terminal Handling Charge (DTHC).

Australian customs and duties for shipment of personal belongings.

Chances are since you are moving to Australia, you are only shipping your personal effects like clothing, furniture, small kitchen appliances, and other housewares. For these items, you will not have to pay a customs fee if you have owned and used the personal effects in your shipment for at least 12 months before your shipping date.

“But how will they know if we have owned something for 12 months or longer? Will we have to show proof? Like a receipt?”

Australian customs will know if something does not meet the 12-month requirement because you tell them so.

You are required to fill out Form B534 an Unaccompanied Personal Effects Statement which is a legally binding document. On the B534 Form, you list out items that you have owned for under 12 months.

You will not be required to list all your personal effects that you have owned for under 12 months such as clothing. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has a pdf titled “Sending Your Personal Belongings to Australia” with a table of what household items are considered “Unaccompanied Personal Effects (UPEs)” and the number of months you must own UPEs before you depart for Australia.

“Personal belongings are also known as unaccompanied personal effects (UPEs). UPEs may include clothing, books, furniture, appliances, and sporting equipment.

UPEs are a special category of goods. If certain conditions are met, your UPEs may be cleared from Customs control without requiring you to lodge import declarations or pay duty, Goods and Services Tax (GST) or other taxes and charges.”
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

One of the conditions is you need to have owned and used specific items in your shipment for a required period (usually 12 months).

Customs clearance is a manual process for all shipping containers arriving in Australia.

When your shipment arrives in Australia, it's transported from the cargo vessel to a storage container where it waits for customs. A customs agent will then collect your detailed packing inventory list and completed the B534 form and start going through your boxes.

You got a door-to-door shipping quote, right? Here is where that becomes important.

The Destination Agent or movers based in Australia, receiving your shipment will act as your representative and handle the paperwork for you. If anything is missing from the paperwork, the movers will contact you. Make sure you let them know your new address (for delivery) and contact details in Australia, as they will send you paperwork or additional customs forms if needed. Any reason for a delay can result in extra fees for storage of your shipment.

I’m going to list resources I have found on the Department of Home Affairs website below for you to check out and read through. Also, ask the shipping company back home about what paperwork you need to have filled out and if you can complete anything before your shipment arrives in Australia.

Australian Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Agriculture Resources:

Australian Quarantine inspects everything that enters the country.

When customs receives your shipment, they will pass along the appropriate paperwork to Australian Quarantine to get the quarantine inspection process started.

Quarantine inspections in Australia range from $180AUD to $700AUD, depending on the size of the shipment and the time it takes for the inspection. If quarantine finds anything in your shipment that needs to be cleaned or destroyed they will let you know the additional charges.

Yes, destroyed.

I already mentioned what happened to us when Australian Quarantine emailed us about foreign dirt found on two pairs of shoes in our shipment so I won’t repeat myself here, but make sure you read that post as they were going to charge us over $300AUD to clean our “dirty” shoes.

You are responsible for these charges. Your shipment will not be released until paid.

One way to decrease the quarantine inspection fee is to have your shipment professionally packed. Most people don’t have their shipment professionally packed because of the extra cost.

If you decide to pack up your household yourself, then keep a detailed packing inventory list and be equally detailed when labeling your boxes. Not to the point of overdoing it, but list items in each box on the side of the box. For example, don’t have boxes labeled “Office #1” and nothing else. Instead, label the box “Office #1” then somewhere list what’s in the box like books, stapler, printer, computer speakers, etc.

Destination GST, port handling charges, customs, and quarantine inspections fees are all excluded from our Australia shipping quote.

Below is our final invoice for these charges for our shipment back in 2008.

Final Invoice When Shipment Arrived in Australia

Notice any discrepancies?

The estimation for the Port Handling Charges in Australia was between $873AUD to $935AUD for our shipping quote. You'll notice that was not the case.

Also, the quarantine inspection was not $248AUD but $300AUD. That was pretty close though.

Why the Port Handling Charges were significantly less, I don't know. I wanted to share our invoice so that you are aware that, in the end, your shipping quote is an estimate. It can, and most likely, will change.

Other services that may result in extra charges are custom crating and storage.

An example of custom crating would be for an item that you’re shipping that needs special care so that when things shift around in the container during ocean travel, they don’t get damaged. That could be any number of things from artwork, such as a large oil painting or sculpture, or in our case, my husband’s motor scooter which costs extra for a custom crate.

An extra storage fee may result from something like a port strike when nothing is leaving or entering a port, and therefore your shipment may need to be put in storage until the strike is over. This happened in the USA in 2015 when the West Coast Ports went on strike.

There were several Sydney Moving Guide readers that ended up with extra charges for the time their shipment sat in storage until the strike ended. Not only did it add up quickly but also delayed the arrival of their shipment by several weeks.

Difficult delivery is another item not included in Australian shipping quotes.

If access to your new home in Australia is difficult, such as a narrow passageway or hard to access stairs and no lift (aka elevator) for example, or if you have heavy items to move such as a piano, then there will be an extra charge added on by the movers in Australia. Chances are you will have no idea if your delivery will be difficult or not until you find a place to live. If you are planning on taking large, heavy items with you to Australia, then expect an extra charge.

Special parking permits for delivery are not included in the shipping quote rate as that is another unknown until you have a place in Australia.

Packing and unpacking are extras that you can add on if you want.

One possible charge that is not listed in our Australia shipping quote.

There is one more item not included in our shipping quote for Australia that you need to be aware of as it is not listed: additional charge in case of Force Majeure.

Force Majeure means “unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract”. A few examples are: a war breaks out, and the cargo vessel cannot dock at the Port of Sydney; a port strike at either the departure port or the destination port; or a natural disaster. You are responsible for any charges that may accrue such as storing your shipment until the strike is over as I mentioned above or, rerouting the shipment to another port in Australia, then you will have to cover the extra delivery charges from the new receiving port to your residence in Australia.

The last item not included in our shipping quote rate is insurance. I have a post that is all about getting insurance for your shipment here, but the main takeaway is that since we decided to pack up our house ourselves, we only qualified for “Totally Loss” insurance.

I mentioned in the first post of this series – where I go over one of our in-house shipping quotes – that this quote is from 2008.

The reason I decided to share our quote with you is to give you an idea of what to expect and what to look out for when getting your quote. Please keep in mind that this is an example and your shipping quote may not have the same fees.

Are you looking for trusted international movers in your area? Fill out the form below with the details of your move and qualified international shipping companies contact you directly. Yep, it's that easy.

What Are You Shipping to Sydney When You Move?

Do you know yet?

The truth is you don’t need to know right now, for sure, what’s going with you.

But you have to get your shipping quote ASAP, especially now.

Why? Because international shipping companies need to schedule your shipment to Australia far in advance, some ask for 6 months in advance. Yes, COVID has changed everything, including international shipping.

When filling out the contact form below…

  1. You don’t need a street address for where you’re moving to, only the city and country. What they really want to know is the major shipping port.
  2. You don’t need exact dates right now. Go with your best guess.
  3. Don’t bother with calculating your volume. Use one of the estimates below for your estimated volume.
    • Studio or 1 Bedroom —> 20 m3
    • 2 Bedroom —> 25 m3
    • 3 Bedroom —> 30 m3
    • 4 Bedroom or 3 Bedroom + Car —> 50 m3
  4. Use your “real” contact details for BOTH phone and email. Yes, the form is secure. If you don’t use your real contact details, then they can’t get in touch with you for your quote. Makes sense, right?

International Movers Contact Form

⏱️ Give the form a second to load.