Customs Border Holds

Understanding Customs Border Holds: A Guide for Shippers in Australia

Navigating the intricate web of international shipping and customs regulations can be daunting. One of the common challenges businesses face when importing goods is dealing with customs border holds. As a leading freight forwarder in Australia, we aim to shed light on this aspect and provide tips to mitigate the impact of such holds.

What is a Customs Border Hold?


When goods are imported or exported, they pass through customs for checks and clearances. Sometimes, these goods are held at the customs border for various reasons. This is known as a customs border hold. It means that the shipment cannot proceed to its final destination until certain conditions are met or the issue causing the hold is resolved.

Common Reasons for Customs Border Holds in Australia

Suspicion of Prohibited Goods: If there’s a suspicion that the shipment contains banned or restricted items, it will be held until verification.

Random Inspections: Even if everything is in order, customs may hold goods as part of random inspections to ensure compliance.

Safety and Health Concerns: Goods that may pose a threat to public health or safety, such as certain chemicals or food products, might be held for further inspection.

Plan for Delays & Additional Costs:

Even with everything in place, unforeseen holds can occur. Always factor in potential delays when planning shipments.

Please see below list of additional costs that may incur;

1. Container Detention Charges

Shipping lines will honor 7 days free from either the day the container is discharged from the vessel, or the first date of availability from the wharf. The average time a container is held with border force / customs is 3-4 days. Customs have the ability to hold the container for longer periods and no freight forwarder and customs broker in Australia have control over this.

A common scenario – If the container has been released by customs after 5 days, container is scheduled for delivery on day 6, container is unpacked on day 7, no time slots are available until day 9. A penalty for a late return 

2. Back to store costs

Back to store costs will incur if a container is collected late on Friday, not able to deliver over the weekend. The costs incurred to collect the container, transport back the carrier’s premises, then lifted off the truck to store in a safe secured area, then redelivered will be invoiced back to the importer / client.  

Back to store costs will also incur if the free period at the wharf has ended. So if the container has been held for 5 days, and the hold has been lifted, there will be limited options to collect immediately. Generally the wharf will allow a slot late at night. As a result, the carrier will have to return the container back to the yard for storage pending a delivery window. 

3. Storage Costs

If the wharf storage has commenced and the customs border hold was lifted after the free period. The transport company has only 24 hours to collect from the terminal. If the terminal has no slots available, the transport company will have to pay storage charges which will be passed on to the importer / customer.

For air freight and sea freight LCL shipments, there is less risk of these additional costs mentioned above. However, be mindful that this is an inconvenience when your shipment is urgent. 

Whilst we understand that customs (Australian Border Force) have the power to hold your cargo. It is a difficult for an importer to make any plans when limited information is available. 


Our customs brokers direct links to the Australian border forces system – The ICS (integrated Cargo System). We receive automated live updates once your border hold is lifted, cargo is released and can be scheduled for delivery.

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