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Shipping to Australia: Top 5 Answers for B2B Wholesalers & Distributors


Shipping to Australia: Top 5 Answers for B2B Wholesalers & Distributors

Below, we’ll address five common questions that often arise for businesses looking to ship goods to Australia, providing valuable insights into customs regulations and strategies for achieving efficient and budget-friendly shipping, including using specialised freight services.

1. What are the common customs requirements for importing goods into Australia?

The Australian Border Force (ABF) is the Australian Government authority responsible for clearing your products and allowing them safe passage into the country.

Normally, the ABF doesn’t require you to have a license as an importer, but you may need to carry licenses depending on the type of product you are importing.

Below we’ll outline some of the common customs requirements you’ll need to know about when importing goods into the country.

Import Entry Cost

When importing certain goods, you may have to pay a fee or charge depending on the declared value of your goods and the type of vessel.

These prices range anywhere from $50 to $152.

Refer to Border Protection Notice 2015/44 for further details.


While not all goods imported to Australia need labelling, there are specific goods that come with very precise labelling requirements in order to be allowed into the country without delay.

If your goods are improperly labelled, the ABF reserves the right to confiscate the goods, especially if labels have an incorrect trade description. The federal Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 and the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Regulation 2016 specify the types of goods that require labelling.

For example, some goods that require labelling include:

  • Food
  • Textile products
  • Batteries
  • Cigarettes
  • Toys

For a comprehensive list of labelling requirements per product, you can visit this page published by the Australian Border Force.


When importing goods into Australia, you need to value them for the purposes of customs.

There are many methods for determining the value of your goods but the most common is the transaction value, which is based on what was actually paid (or is going to be paid) for the goods.

There are a range of conditions that need to be satisfied in order to use the transaction valuation method. This includes:

  • The buyer and seller cannot be related
  • Where they are related, their relationship cannot affect the price of the imported goods.

There are a number of other values, including:

  • Identical goods value – price of identical goods sold for export.
  • Similar goods value – price of similar goods sold for export.
  • Deductive value – price in a sale within Australia of the imported goods
  • Computed value – price of producing the goods (including general expenses and other costs)
  • Fall-back value – when there are no other methods suitable for the shipment, the ABF will determine the value taking into account these valuation method and other relevant information.

Rules of Origin

Rules of Origin refers to the rules applied to determine what country a certain good originates from for the purposes of custom and international trade.

Depending on where the goods come from, the shipment may be subject to the free trade agreement (FTA), which is a mechanism used to facilitate trade in goods.

For example, China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) contains legislation and policies relevant to goods originating from China.  

When shipping your goods into Australia, you’ll need to make sure they comply with any rules of origin in an applicable free trade agreement.

Here are some of the countries that Australia has a Free Trade Agreement with:

  • China
  • USA
  • India
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • New Zealand
  • Peru
  • Chile
  • United Kingdom and Northern Ireland

Australian Business Number

The ABF will require your Australian Business Number (ABN) before your imports get cleared. You also need to register for GST to claim input credits.

Commerce Trade Descriptions

As explained above, certain goods (although, not all goods) will need to be labelled with a “trade description” before they are brought into the country. Imported goods not labelled correctly may be seized.

The trade description must:

  • Be in English and legible
  • Contain the name of the country that produced the items
  • Include a “true description” of the goods – in other words, an accurate and more detailed explanation of the goods

2. How can I ensure cost-effective shipping for my distribution business?

Shipping to Australia or any other part of the world is expensive, so you want to be sure it has good value for your money.

Here are some tips you can execute in order to ensure cost-effective shipping.

Consolidate your shipments

A great way to save on shipping costs is through shipment consolidation. Instead of shipping separate LCLs (Less than Container Load) shipments, you can consolidate them into one FCL (Full Container Load).

By doing this, you’ll only have to pay the export handling fee, the documentation fee and the cartage fee once.

Encourage larger orders

Another effective technique is to entice your customers to buy more goods. Similar to shipment consolidation, you can take advantage of one-time big-time transactions, reducing freight costs.

You can achieve this through encouraging your clients to purchase in bulk, offer incentives for ordering more goods (such as discounts) or imposing Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs).

Get ready for peak shipping season

Peak shipping season from August to November every year. It remains crucial for shippers to take all necessary precautions to minimise delays in their supply chain.

We suggest allocating a minimum of two to three weeks to account for any unforeseen delays in your shipment. If you opt for seafreight shipping, it’s prudent to allow for an additional week as a buffer period at both the departure and destination ends.

Consolidated Container FCL LCL

3. Are there any specific packaging or labeling requirements for products shipped to Australia?

Not all products shipped to Australia need labelling, but certain goods require the trade description labelling as shown below.

  • General Goods. These include food, chinaware, textile, apparel, electrical appliances, electrical accessories, toys, cigarettes or tobacco, Portland cement, etc.
  • Goods half clad in certain materials like leather, fiber, vulcanite, or plastic – this includes belts, briefcases, gloves, handbags, kit bags, leggings, saddles, schoolbags, and similar items.
  • Prepacked articles. These are goods that usually packed for sale. The trade description must be attached to the package.
  • Priority Food. The labelling requirements for food depend on whether the food is a non-priority or priority, according to Australia’s Information Standards. Non-priority foods include confectionery, seasonings, , biscuits, snacks, bottled water, soft drinks, coffee, and alcoholic beverages. They do not require labelling but still need an origin statement.  Priority foods require a trade description.  

You can access the complete list of packaging guidelines for goods imported to Australia here.

4. What role does a freight forwarder play in optimising shipping to Australia?

A freight forwarder oversees the whole shipment from start to finish, achieving a smooth supply chain flow into Australia.  A few ways they do this include:

Route and Mode Optimisation

Freight forwarders have expertise in optimising shipping routes both on land, air and sea to determine the most suitable modes of transport for your shipments to Australia. They consider factors such as cost, transit time, and specific requirements to ensure the most efficient and cost-effective transportation solution.

Supply Chain Streamlining

Freight forwarders can help streamline your supply chain by coordinating and managing various aspects of the shipping process.

They act as custom clearance agents, and can handle tasks such as documentation, warehousing and distribution, ensuring a smooth and streamlined flow of goods from origin to destination in Australia.

Freight Forwarding ICE

5. How can I track and manage my shipments effectively?

As the shipment leaves the shipping point, it has a long journey ahead. It could pass through different modes of shipment (from cargo vessels to freight trains), different warehouses, and more.

A good freight forwarder will have access to systems and software for cargo tracking, in which you can login and see all details of your shipment, including real-time location.

Ask your freight forwarder about tracking.

Looking to ship your goods to Australia?

Get in touch with our team here at International Cargo Express.  Our experts understand the nuances of shipping to Australia and can provide you with customised solutions that meet your specific requirements.

Whether it’s navigating customs clearance, optimizing your logistics, or ensuring timely delivery, we have the knowledge and resources to handle your shipments with utmost care and efficiency.

Contact ICE to learn more and start your journey towards successful shipping to Australia.

Independent vs international freight forwarder

or call us on 1300 227 461

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