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Old 23-10-2011, 23:14   #16
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

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Australia has strict customs and quarantine guidelines to protect our natural resources, population and industry, HOWEVER, I suspect the people that you have read about have done the wrong thing and tried to import items that they shouldn't have and were likely ignorant of the rules and regulations or simply ignored them. You only have to watch our show called "border patrol" or similar TV shows to see the stupid (beyond comprehension) things that people try to do to bring in prohibited items into the country.

I'm confident that if you familiarise yourself with the guidelines and comply with them you will have no problems. Australian's are generally easy going but Customs crews and the like don't enjoy dealing with ignorance of the laws - they are every-day people like you or I.

Don't be deterred, Australia could be the best place that you've every visited and you'll never know if you never go!
Just one point for clarity - you don't have to comply with guidelines, just the law, no more - no less. And the relevant legislation is readily available for free on the interwebby thingy.

You have to comply with the law even when it is stupid beyond belief, like the 96 hour rule. But by and large compliance is relatively simple.

If I ever get into trouble with ACS I just hope it is the subject of a Border Patrol episode. The breaches of appropriate investigative practice I have seen on the show make me shudder.
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Old 23-10-2011, 23:24   #17
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

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That is pretty strong stuff--an example would have been good.

TCP does indeed seem to have an editorial attitude that incompetence and bullying should be publicised whenever it happens.

Unfortunately high-handedness seems to be happening more freqquently than as of yore. I can not speak for TCP--I have nothing whatsoever to do with them--but they have shone a light on some aspects of officialdom we hoped never to see in this country. More power to them.

TCP are mostly concerned with the state of Queensland, which seems to have been developing a culture of imposing fines as a revenue stream rather than as a last resort.
Example ? No problem !

The stand they took against Australian Customs on the issue of customs people boarding boats. This negativity was maintained for a few months then completely withdrawn following a 180 degree backflip. It seems that their interpretation of the customs laws was completely wrong. They published a letter from a customs guy on the subject and his interpretation turned out to be completely right. Read about it in their back issues.

Oh well.

I could carry on about their support for the people who went to court but you can read about it in their back issues and decide for yourselves.
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Old 24-10-2011, 00:43   #18
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

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While the Coastal Passage is an interesting publication, they seem to thrive on muckraking and anti-governmental agitation. I personally have seen articles that were exaggerated beyond recognition covering situations that I was directly familiar with. I think that they serve a useful purpose in stimulating awareness, but suggest that you view their comments with some careful consideration.

I've noticed that too. Being from, and sailing in, Queensland waters myself, I regularly read TCP but the anti-gubmint stance can be rather OTT and a bit offputting at times. I recall one letter they published where a reader stated they had encountered nothing but courtesy from customs (the letter was politely written as well) - the editor was more than a little rude and combatitive in his published response and and essentially accused them of being a shill for the government. Most folk I know who've had dealings with customs also have had no problems whatsoever (no, I'm not a customs shill either).

In short - don't let fear of customs stop you from coming over and enjoying a wonderful sailing destination (I sound like a tourism brochure), and, while enjoying the stories in TCP, take them with a grain of salt.
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Old 24-10-2011, 01:00   #19
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Never a cop when you need one...

If yous do decide to come to Oz you may get an understanding of why our police, customs, quarantine, et alia can be so "officious".

Some Australians, while the nicest people most of the time, in some situations (particularly after way too many drinks) completely loose any sense of politeness, right and wrong and correct behavior.

After meeting a few of them it's tempting to start looking for the nearest cop.
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Old 24-10-2011, 01:05   #20
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

We have pretty stringent rules to protect our Flora and fauna down here. If some yachtie is standing at customs trying to sneak in a mangey dog and whole pile of fresh chicken from asia and a pile of fruit and veg from the pacific isles, they are going to get fined. Pretty simple. But the reality is, that yes, there is some paperwork, there is some officialdom to get through.

But like every country we have our pro's and con's. We also have the occasional pen pusher with an inflated sense of self worth. I wouldn't take the advice of one or two travelers compared to the thousands that arrive here every day by air for instance.

We have a TV show here called border patrol. ( a bit like COPS but based around customs and immigration). The only time you see someone having a hard time is when they flout the rules.

With any pen pusher at any border in the world, we have to treat them with respect and pass the attitude test. As soon as someone starts pushing their buttons they are going to make it harder on them. That parts just common sense.

As an Aussie I left Aus on a Kiwi boat a few years ago, heading for Auckland. We were rubber stamped in no time. The only real inspection was a look through the cockpit and a chat about the technical side of the boat (the official was a yachtie on the weekends).

A couple of cases mentioned in the articles appear to be cases where someone didnt contact customs first and abide by the rules. A simple oversight perhaps. But we not only have drug smuggling yachts but people smuggling boats to contend with down here. If customs and Coastwatch had to spend time and money on aircraft to monitor "unknown vessels" due to the skippers lack of knowledge, the skipper should pay. The rules are all over the internet. Blunt but sadly its the truth.
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Old 24-10-2011, 01:10   #21
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

On a side note. I am quite sure that if I was cruising the coast of the US for instance and breached a law or two, that the coast guard would be all over the boat in no time. And most likely more than once. The upshot is that generally, ACS dont carry automatic rifles. Come visit. I will buy you a beer
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Old 24-10-2011, 01:55   #22
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

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We have a TV show here called border patrol. ( a bit like COPS but based around customs and immigration). The only time you see someone having a hard time is when they flout the rules.
Really, thats just an airport show isn't it?
Do they show yachties?
I can guarantee you they are two different animals, the airport guys and gals are nice as pie.
Most times coming back in I get waved through without even a check.


Quote:
As an Aussie I left Aus on a Kiwi boat a few years ago, heading for Auckland. We were rubber stamped in no time. The only real inspection was a look through the cockpit and a chat about the technical side of the boat (the official was a yachtie on the weekends).
On one boat I took out they kept us for 6 or 7 hours running dogs around, wanting to pull stuff apart, even set off a fire extinguisher and broke the fridge door catch, and never told us.
Not to mention black scuff marks everywhere from their black kicker-boots.
And for what exactly?

I hate to think what treatment we would get on the way back in.

But, there have also been several easy exits.

Quote:
If customs and Coastwatch had to spend time and money on aircraft to monitor "unknown vessels" due to the skippers lack of knowledge, the skipper should pay. The rules are all over the internet. Blunt but sadly its the truth.
Amazing how they used to manage before with a lot less resources, and yachties rarely had issues, you know, back in the days when they used to monitor HF radio?
Back in the days when they were a "service" instead of a "force"
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Old 24-10-2011, 03:33   #23
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

Thanks to everyone for relaying their experiences with Oz customs. Oz or NZ trip is still some time out, so I'll see if Oz customs attitude changes over time. I realize that Oz customs worry about illegal drugs/meat/fruit/dogs/boats being imported into the country, so they'll flag whoever looks suspicious enough to carry any of the above list (or all of it).

Still, even this
Quote:
On one boat I took out they kept us for 6 or 7 hours running dogs around, wanting to pull stuff apart, even set off a fire extinguisher and broke the fridge door catch, and never told us.
Not to mention black scuff marks everywhere from their black kicker-boots.
would not be a nice experience. USCG, for example, wears non-marking boots . Most other countries officials remove their shoes when coming on board. Turks and Caicos even ask for a permission, say that we have every right to refuse, and they would not prosecute us in that case (maybe they were joking...).

But completely I understand everyone's point about following laws (and possibly guidelines) and being accomodating and respectful. We do that in any case when we check in and out of a country.

We'll decide closer to the time of travel. Australia is one of our ultimate destinations and we are still keeping it on our list, but cautiously... Thanks for the replies!

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Come visit. I will buy you a beer
Ok. But you'll have to drink it too
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Old 24-10-2011, 04:46   #24
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

Check out bumfuzzle.com at Ashmore Reef on the Darwin page - they were boarded by customs and were filmed for the Customs show.
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Old 24-10-2011, 04:46   #25
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

We are talking a BIG place to visit, is a few hours of gov't inspection etc. really a reason not to visit?
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Old 24-10-2011, 05:42   #26
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Its those little furry multi legged things that lurk under toilet seats waiting to pounce on dangly bits that puts me of OZ....
dickheads in uniform can be found anywhere....
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Old 24-10-2011, 05:59   #27
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

I lived in Australia for 36 years and I've never been bitten by a spider, snake or shark, plus the majority of other animals.
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Old 24-10-2011, 07:10   #28
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

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Originally Posted by ausaviator View Post
I suspect the people that you have read about have done the wrong thing and tried to import items that they shouldn't have and were likely ignorant of the rules and regulations or simply ignored them.
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Originally Posted by Dragon Lady View Post
people's who have not done their homework and turn up with a timber boat from a high risk area which needs to be inspected by a termite dog.
Its nice you Australians are so proud of your country. And it is a great cruising ground. And I would not and have not avoided it because of the official.

But I have to comment in response to the above two quotes. We in fact try very hard to be aware of and follow all rules of the countries we visit. We don't have a timber boat (in fact its all aluminum and there is almost no wood on board at all), we don't have any animals, and we know full well to eat up all troublesome food before we enter NZ or OZ.

Let me just give a quick summary of our check in in Fremantle.

We arrived at 3am at Fremantle harbour after a 59 day non-stop passage from Cape Horn. We were given very clear direction from harbour control where to dock and to wait for customs to come to the boat and we did so. We had given the proper prior e-mail notice and we had proper and valid visas.

The officials arrived at about 8am and right away aggressively told us we had entered and docked illegally - as we were apparently about 50m from the official customs dock. I very politely told them we had simply followed harbour control directions. They said I must be lying. SO I called harbour control on the radio and after some time when they tracked down the night shift, they confirmed we were exactly where they said we should go.

They asked us where we had come from and seemed not to believe we had come from Chile and wanted us to 'prove' that, and that we had not stopped anywhere along the coast. Its pretty hard to prove one has not stopped, but I showed them the track on the chart plotter, the noon marks on our ocean paper chart and our Chilean exit stamps. They still acted as if they thought we had probably stopped in Indonesia but realized there was not much else they could do to try to prove that suspicion.

They gave me some papers to read and sign, which I did and then said they were going to search the boat and that we could not be on board while they did it and had to stand on the dock. I might note this is the only time in our 15 years of cruising that our boat has been searched in this way. So, we are standing on the dock and I see one official place a pvc pipe inside our boom and asked what he was doing. He replied he was placing a pipe of heron as part of their dog search procedure. I asked that they remove the drugs immediately and said that if I had been asked I would never have given them permission to bring drugs on my boat as I could not be sure it would not leave some tiny trace that would later be found and pinned on us. They refused saying it was part of their procedure.

Sometime in the search they decided to try to remove several ceiling panels. They did not ask for any advice from me on how to do that and damaged them.

In one of our drawers they found an expired pencil mace spray and immediately accused me of signing a false statement about not having such on board, and 'threatened' me with jail time and fines. I told them if they read the document I had signed more closely they would see that it asked and I had only stated that we had no fire arms on board. It said nothing about mace. And in fact they later confirmed that it was allowed to enter with mace but they had to take it off the boat and ship it to our destination harbour. I asked them to just destroy it rather than go to that compilation.

Somewhere several hours into the search I asked what they did with all the big ships entering the harbour if it took them this long with a small yacht. The reply was 'they are so big we can't effectively search them so we don't'. I don't know if that was true or a flippant reply but it did not make me feel any more positive about our experience.

Sometime later in the search they asked us to lay out all our sails on the dock and to raise our mainsail (while we were beam to 25-30kts). We went to a great deal of effort to bring out and unroll and then reroll all our extra headsails but I told them raising the mainsail at the dock would likely cause damage but that I would be delighted to motor off the dock with them on board and then raise it. They decided not to.

This goes on for about 5 hours. At that point they seem to get bored and stop. They were rather less aggressive and more pleasant and respectful at this point. We were given a clean bill and told to come in the office in a day when they would have our cruising permit ready.

I should note that I was polite and respectful thru-out. In fact we were pretty fired and tired from the long passage and late night entry and so pretty much just sitting back and watching them do their thing.

I have no problem if officials want to search our boat. We have nothing at all to hide and I understand its their job. I have always been a bit surprised that it has never been done other than this experience. In Chile we were asked after we were cleaned in if they could search the boat as a training exercise. We said sure and they brought a search team on board and they completed the exercise in the professional manor I would have expected and after they were completed one of their procedure was to give us an opportunity to provide feedback both verbally and in writing about the experience.

I don't know how common or frequent our experience with Australia was/is. But it was definitely NOT because we were ignorant or intentionally breaking their rules.
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Old 24-10-2011, 07:13   #29
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Re: Australian customs - deterrent to visiting Oz?

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I lived in Australia for 36 years and I've never been bitten by a spider, snake or shark, plus the majority of other animals.
So what ! That just means you don't taste too good.

I'll have you know boatman presents a pretty tasty morsel. I hear it's the tapas.
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Old 24-10-2011, 07:26   #30
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Its nice to know there are some who appreciate the little delicacies in life.....
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