Frequently Asked Questions


1. What are the dimensions of shipping containers?

Shipping containers come in a range of sizes. View container dimension specifications:

2. What is container detention and how much does it cost?

When supplies of shipping containers are delayed or running low due to the late return of containers, the entire international cargo supply chain can be impacted. To deter the late return of containers, detention charges are imposed by the shipping lines for containers not returned to the designated location within the allowed 'free time' period. 'Free time periods vary amongst shipping lines but generally range from seven to ten calendar days (including public holidays and weekends) depending on the type of container used.

The 'free time' period commences from the first day the container is made available on the wharf – not when the importers collect the container. Any time a container spends delayed in border processing (customs and quarantine) is still considered to be part of the 'free time' period.

3. What Customs duties and goods & services taxes are payable on imported cargo?

Most imported goods are subject to Australian Customs duties and 10% goods service tax. There are many different regulations and sometimes complex duty rates applicable to imported cargo. See for more information or talk to our customs team on 1300 CARGO1 for advice specific to your situation.

4. Is GST payable on imports?

Goods and services tax (GST) is payable on most goods imported into Australia. GST on a taxable importation is payable by businesses, organisations and private individuals, whether they are registered for GST or not. However, if you are a GST-registered business or organisation and you import goods as part of your activities, you may be able to claim a GST credit for any GST you pay on those goods. The GST payable is 10% of the value of the taxable importation. Visit for more information.

5. Can you defer the payment of GST on imported goods?

Yes, the Australian Taxation Office operates a deferred GST (DGST) scheme that allows importers to defer payment on all taxable importations into Australia. This scheme doesn't impact on Customs duty, which must be paid at the time of importation.

Eligibility for this scheme is dependent on the following factors:

  • Having an Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • Being registered for GST
  • Lodging your activity statements online
  • Lodging your activity statement monthly
  • No outstanding tax-related returns or payments
  • Make activity statement payments electronically
  • No convictions or penalties relating to taxation, customs requirements, trade practices, defrauding the Australian Government.

See for more information or click here to apply.

6. What documents are required for Customs Clearance?

A range of documents are required for Customs clearance, dependant on factors such as the type of cargo and the country of origin. Standard importing or exporting generally requires a commercial invoice, quarantine packing declaration, packing list, Bill of Lading and an insurance certificate – depending on your Incoterms.

Visit to access the forms required or call our Customs team on 1300 CARGO1 (1300 227 461) for advice.

7. What are the requirements for exporting wine?

Under Wine Australia Corporation Regulations, all wine shipments of 100 litres or more require export approval, regardless of the number of consignees to which the shipment is addressed. The export approval process includes the following steps:

  • Licence to Export
  • Product Registration
  • Export Permit
  • Bulk Consignee Approval (for exports of bulk wine)

Visit Wine Australia for more information about the process. Read for advice regarding other aspects to be considered.

8. How do I develop a plan for successful exporting?

A well-thought out export strategy is an essential part of your business plan. It will help you to define your export objectives and allow you to match your resources to meeting those objectives. It's crucial to analyse your reasons for wanting to enter overseas markets; these key questions will help you to look clearly at your aims:

  • What does my company hope to gain from exporting?
  • Is an export program consistent with company goals?
  • Do we have the human and financial resources to execute an export program?
  • Are our products or services exportable – will modifications be required?

Recognising the key factors behind the decision to begin exporting is essential. Create a list of these factors, involving staff and stake-holders in the process and then reduce the list to around five factors. Build your strategy around them and be prepared to revisit this process down the track.

9. What's required to get into exporting?

Moving into exporting can be very rewarding financially but success is contingent on a number of factors.

  • Do you have the necessary resources? Building an export market may cost a lot: financially, time-wise, and in resources.
  • Is your product unique? Will it appeal to overseas markets? Is there much competition?
  • Marketing is crucial. Do you have the necessary marketing expertise in your business?
  • You'll need to talk to exporting experts about things such as labelling requirements in your export market and customs and quarantine restrictions that may apply.

The most important thing is to plan plan plan!

10. Basic steps for importing?

The most common reason for importing is for resale, with profit as the ultimate goal. It's essential that you accurately calculate the landed cost of your cargo, i.e. how much it will cost to have the goods delivered to your warehouse, before placing an order. A product that is incredibly cheap for you to purchase from an overseas supplier may not turn out to be so cheap once on-costs are added on (e.g. Freight, insurance, import duty, GST, bank charges, interest etc.) You also need to be sure that a market for your product exists in Australia.

The most important step you can take is to seek professional advice from your customs broker, or freight forwarder, or the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

11. Are there rules about labelling of goods imported into Australia?

The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 (CTDA) and the Commerce (Imports) Regulations 1940 (the Regulations) set out the requirements for labelling of goods imported into Australia. The importation of certain goods is prohibited if they aren't correctly labelled with the required trade description. Not all goods require labelling under the Act or Regulations so it's important to identify the exact requirements for your goods. Find out more with the following resources:

Customs Notices:

Fact Sheets:


12. Are there specific rules about importing machinery into Australia?

Australia exercises strict biosecurity measures designed to protect plant and animal health that may impact on the importation of machinery. Any machinery imported must be free from contamination such as seeds, soil, plant and animal materials. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has the power to export contaminated machinery from Australia at the importer's or owner's expense. Used imported machinery generally requires an import permit issued by DAWR. Find out more here: BICON

13. How do you import motor vehicles into Australia?

Importing a vehicle into Australia is a relatively simple process, provided you follow the required steps. Not following the necessary steps can turn it into a costly and time-consuming exercise. Find out more: Importing road vehicles into Australia

14. What do I need to know about cargo packing?

Packing requirements vary greatly and will ultimately depend on the cargo being shipped. Underestimating the importance of packing can result in cargo damage, loss and costly insurance claims.

The basic principle of packaging is known as the 'unit load' or 'unitisation' and is based on the idea that cargo should be packaged so as to enable its movement and handling entirely by mechanical equipment, such as lifts and cranes, throughout the distribution network. The resultant labour and time savings often result in cost reductions for the exporter.

Things to consider include the type of carrier you will be using: truck? Ship? Potential hazards the cargo may encounter: the type of storage, loading and unloading facilities, route etc.; and cost factors: minimise transportation costs by using lightweight, non-bulky packing materials when possible.

15. Do Quarantine rules apply to my cargo?

Australia has strict quarantine rules and regulations. Before importing goods into Australia it is important to be aware of how these rules may affect your cargo. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is the best source of information regarding quarantine regulation; view their website: The basic do's and don'ts of quarantine and importing are as follows:


  • Find out if you need an import permit for your specific cargo and ensure you meet the import requirements (see AQIS website above).
  • Provide AQIS with a packing declaration that provides details of container cleanliness and the packing materials used. If this information is not provided, the container will have to be opened and inspected by AQIS, leading to delays and extra costs.
  • Ensure your container is free of contaminants such as soil, grain, plant and animal materials. A cleanliness declaration is required for all containerised cargo imported into Australia.
  • Ensure all timber used in packaging has been treated using an AQIS approved method. Offshore treatments may facilitate faster clearance but an AQIS approved provider must perform the treatment.
  • Investigate alternative packing materials such as plastics, synthetic foams, metal frames, inflated dunnage, woodwool and shredded paper.
  • Be aware that thorough inspections for exotic pests and diseases are carried out on consignments from high risk countries.


  • Don't use straw packing – it is prohibited as it can carry insects and diseases. Containers in which straw, rice hulls or similar plant materials have been used for packaging will be unpacked by AQIS and the straw either treated or destroyed at the importer's expense.
  • Don't pack goods in vegetable, fruit, meat, egg cartons or second-hand bags as these may harbour pests and diseases and will be removed and destroyed by quarantine authorities.
  • Don't use timber with bark attached – bark is prohibited.

16. What are Incoterms?

Incoterms are international rules that are accepted by governments, legal authorities and practitioners worldwide for the interpretation of the most commonly used terms in international trade. They either reduce or remove altogether uncertainties arising from differing interpretations of such terms in different countries.

For a full list of the terms and what they mean see our Incoterms page.


I just wanted to drop you a short note because our team locally has been under enormous pressure in satisfying some of our largest customers with product.Thru the efforts of Zdenka, we are delivering pretty much as the customers need and they have acknowledged the excellent service we are providing them . A large part of this is thru your teams efforts too thank you and pls pass on our positive and appreciated comments to Zdenka

Brian Pert
National Sales Manager
Cargill Texturising Solutions - Australia and New Zealand
"Just wanted to say a big thank you for all the help you gave us with getting the container delivered. It arrived at 1.15 Thank you for keeping us informed as things progressed through the system, it is reassuring to know that you were on the job."

Greg Croke
Managing Director
"Hello Guys, I just wanted to thank you all for the fantastic service. When compared to the last freight forwarder, you guys absolutely shot them out of the water. I will be using you guys for all of my future containers, and I will be referring any business I can. Thank you.

Best Regards,

Sebastian Loader, Owner/Operator
Sustainable Living Furniture
"Dennis – I can't thank you enough for your assistance over the last week. You have truly gone above and beyond the normal service standards experienced within the industry. It's this service that creates that point of difference and creates advocacy. I will certainly be recommending ICE to colleagues and other business associates.
All the best,

Melina Kawecki
"At Lovehoney and personally, we try to deliver good and bad news in equal proportion. As bad as our previous forwarder has been for us over recent months, this is mirrored in the positive and proactive stance of your Brisbane Team. They have all been excellent, specifically Alice and Tara. It makes a nice change when a supplier puts in as much effort into their business, as we do for our customers.

Rob Godwin
Love Honey
"Just a quick note to say thanks for the excellent delivery service this week of our goods from VITSOE UK. Your communication in the lead up was exemplary and your driver on the day was punctual, friendly and helpful. Recently I find it rare to come across people who do as they promise… You were 100% reliable from start to finish. Feel free to forward this to your boss. We couldn't have been happier with the service you provided.
All the best mate. "
Rory Toomey, Architect
"Just over two years ago we approached ICE to assist with our international freight forwarding of importing goods from UK to Australia. We were a newly established start-up with no experience in importing and freight, nor with any trading history. It was the personal support and belief in us by ICE that made us choose to work with you. We appreciated the hand on support and guidance in the early stages, as international freight can be a complicated task for SMEs to take on when starting up. Having direct access to you and your team, offering quality service and flexibility made a real difference for us.

Also of value to our relationship has been the ability to store & access product at both you Melbourne and Sydney offices – which is useful when expanding across the country. As is the ability to arrange collection in the UK and delivery from door to door.

I'm sure there's many other freight forwarders out there competing for the same customer, but aren't convinced many of them offer more of a personalised service, backed up with support and flexible access when you need it most.

Thanks for the great two years, happy to advocate your success to others, and speak with them should they want to hear first-hand about our experience with ICE. Here's to a great working relationship in the year ahead."

Rob Mikecz, Owner, Rochester Ginger
" I can vouch for the guys at ICE. They give us excellent service. You are wise to choose them. close quote Martin Ward, General Manager, Ulbrich Products Pty Ltd
All the best mate. "
"Hi guys
Just wanted to let you know how well Mark Mackovski has looked after us (me!) over the past two weeks regarding our three open top containers from Italy. Customs attempted to make life difficult but Mark arranged the entire situation from start to finish with expertise. Thank you for the opportunity to work with Mark as he was diligent, very helpful and pro-active in keeping me informed of the changing status of our 3 containers. Mark's efforts enabled me to keep various managers here at APP alerted each and every step of the way relating to the clearance and delivery of such large shipments. Our managers are happy with me and I am happy with Mark!
You have obviously taught him well!
Thanks again guys."

Annie Henry, Marketing – Import/Export Assistant, Australian Plastic Profiles Pty. Ltd. & Pipe King Pty. Ltd.
"It's nice to finally deal with a professional organisation with a friendly and efficient sales person! I have spent some time on the phone today getting grunted at and told "we will get back to you". I was starting to think that the entire industry was made up of nuffy's! Please make sure you pass on my positive feedback to your manager (and ask him/her for a raise while you're at it!):0) As I mentioned on the phone, we are just embarking on a trading relationship with a couple of companies in India. I foresee that we will have ongoing orders with these companies and there will be a steady stream of airfreight from them to us. Hence the need to get my head around my freight costs. The idea of using a "one stop shop" for our supply chain requirements appeals to me.
Cheers, Doug Baird"
"I was nervous about jumping into the international scene after managing a successful domestic e-commerce business for 3 years. But ICE offered such great hands-on service, I didn't need to worry about anything. I was guided along by the ICE cargo professionals from start to finish. Any question I had was immediately addressed by their really friendly staff. Thumbs up. "

Alan Reynolds, Perth
"Wanted to grow my business globally but I didn't know the first thing about importing and exporting. Contacted ICE and got all the help and answers I wanted. Because of their support, I got the kick-start that I was looking for."

Andrea Martin, Sydney
"Starting an online business is difficult for beginner like myself. Not only was I new to e-commerce, but also I had zero experience with international trade and importing. ICE explained and managed this process for me in such a friendly and accessible way, that any apprehension I felt quickly disappeared. "

Rob Dellenbauch, Sydney
"They're amazing and affordable! Besides the great rates, you get direct, knowledgeable, experienced support. You can't get this kind of service from larger freight companies. ICE is a definitely a winner."

Laurie Bradford, Brisbane

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