5368.0.55.018 - Information Paper: Experimental Statistics on International Shipping Container Movements, 2009-10  
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1 Shipping companies who are 'Principal Agents' operate the vessels that transport cargo to Australia. The vessels carry overseas cargo on behalf of owners, which has been organised through a freight forwarder. The cargo may be containerised in a container owned by the shipping companies. The Principal Agent may also lease space on the vessel to other shipping companies.

2 Shipping container movement data is collected by Customs and Border Protection from information supplied, via the Integrated Cargo System (ICS), which has been submitted by the industry entities as part of the requirement that all cargo arriving to and departing from Australia on international voyages must be reported.

3 The ICS is Customs and Border Protection's integrated software application that provides the Information Technology platform needed to declare, report, risk assess and determine cargo status. It is the sole method of reporting the legitimate movement of goods across Australia's borders. The system features sophisticated risk management technology to help Customs and Border Protection officers and other border management agencies target high-risk cargo.

4 The ICS:

  • Processes reports and generates related messages to the communicator and other parties in some circumstances.
  • Validates reports and establishes linkages to other reports with the same common linking fields.

5 This is critical to the process of risk assessment, cargo clearance and determining the location of the cargo for status generation.

6 Customs and Border Protection receives a number of reports that contain legislatively required information supplied by shippers, importers, exporters and their agents, that can be used to count containers, using data items (or attributes) in those reports. The primary reporting instruments for shipping container counts are the Sea Cargo Report (SCR), Progressive Discharge Report (PDR), Sea Cargo Outturn Report (SCOR) and Import Declaration (ID). Empty containers, domestic containers and containers repositioned for export are reported on the Cargo List (CL).

7 The Sea Impending Arrival Report (SIAR) is the first document in the import cargo reporting chain. It is the highest-level document, and contains information about the expected arrival of a vessel on a voyage from a place outside Australia. The operator of the vessel is responsible for submitting the SIAR. The timeframe for lodging the SIAR to Customs and Border Protection is, not earlier than 10 days before the estimated time of arrival (ETA) and not later than 96 hours before ETA.

8 The SIAR includes the following information:
  • Lloyds number and voyage number (vessel)
  • The last overseas port of departure
  • The date and time of departure from the last overseas port
  • The first Australian arrival port
  • All subsequent Australian ports
  • Estimated date and time of arrival at each subsequent port
  • Whether the ship has any cargo to discharge
  • The details of the party engaged to unload cargo (establishment identifier).

9 An Actual Arrival Report (AAR) is required to be submitted to Customs and Border Protection at each Australian port for the vessel's voyage. The operator of the vessel is responsible for the lodgement of the SIAR. The timeframe for lodging an AAR is within 24 hours of arrival, or before the certificate of clearance is issued, whichever occurs first.

10 The information provided on the AAR includes:
  • Lloyds number and voyage number
  • The port of arrival
  • The actual date & time of arrival
  • Reporting party ID
  • Responsible party identifier (ABN of operator)
  • The stevedore establishment ID (wharf area)
  • Berth code.

11 A Sea Cargo Report (SCR) is a report of all cargo listed on a single Ocean Bill/House Bill that a cargo reporter has arranged to be carried to Australia on a particular vessel and voyage. It lists goods being imported into Australia on that voyage as well as cargo being transhipped or transiting through Australia. It is one of the key documents in the import cargo reporting chain and contains critical information for Customs and Border Protection to perform risk assessment and to account for cargo. The timeframe for a SCR to be lodged with Customs and Border Protection is not later than 48 hours before the estimated time of arrival stated in the SIAR.

12 Note a freight forwarder may lodge several cargo reports for different consignees on the same Vessel/Voyage into Australia.

13 A SCR includes the following information:
  • Bill of Lading numbers (Ocean, Master, sub-master, and house)
  • The ship identifier (Lloyd's number or Customs Ship Register number)
  • The voyage number
  • Arrival date
  • The port in which the cargo is to be discharged
  • The port of final destination for the cargo
  • First Australian port
  • Original Loading port
  • Waybill origin port
  • Country of Origin for the goods
  • Principal Agent ID (ABN or Customs Client Identifier)
  • Responsible Party ID (either ABN or Customs Client ID)
  • Consignee details
  • Consignor details
  • Party to be notified in regards to the consignment
  • Unique consignment reference
  • All the overseas ports of call en route to Australia
  • A description of the goods
  • Cargo type (FCL, LCL, FCX, Break Bulk or Bulk)
  • Container details - number, size, and type
  • The seal number of the container (Sea Cargo Report)
  • Number of packages
  • Marks and numbers that may be used to identify the goods
  • Net weigh and units
  • Volume
  • Gross weight and unit
  • Declared Value (including currency of declared value)
  • Method of payment
  • Method of payment for the consignment's transport.

14 A Progressive Discharge Report (PDR) details the containerised cargo that is discharged at the port from a vessel. A PDR is communicated when one or more containers are discharged and records the time of discharge, as well as confirming the actual arrival of the containers. It also includes the identification of surplus or short-shipped containers (a container missing a vessel that it was originally intended for). The cargo terminal operator or stevedore is responsible for communicating the PDR.

15 The PDR details include:
  • Sender Reference
  • Sender Reference Version
  • Vessel ID
  • Voyage Number
  • Date and time of the first container discharge
  • Date and time of the last container discharge
  • Container number(s)
  • Responsible party id(s).

16 The PDR also includes an indicator for re-stowed containers.

17 A Sea Cargo Outturn Report (SCOR) is used to report details of all containerised sea cargo that has moved underbond to a section s77G depot and/or has been unpacked at a depot. It is the responsibility of the CTO or section 77G depot operator to submit the SCOR. For containerised cargo received at a depot and unpacked, the SCOR must be communicated within 24 hours of the completion of the unpack. For containerised cargo received at a depot and not unpacked the SCOR must be communicated within 24 hours of receipt into the depot.

18 The SCOR details include:
  • Sender Reference
  • Sender Reference Version
  • Vessel ID
  • Voyage Number
  • Receiving Establishment ID
  • Responsible Party ID
  • Cargo Receipt/Unload Date and Time
  • Vessel Discharge or Underbond Indicator
  • Cargo Unpack Completion Date and Time
  • Receipt /Unpack Indicator
  • Cargo Type
  • Outturn Result
  • Container Number
  • Ocean Bill of Lading
  • House Bill of Lading.

19 As stated previously, the Sea Cargo Report links with a number of other cargo reports (as shown below). These other reports are used in generating a "consolidated status".

20 Links and relationship of Sea Cargo Reports to other reports in the sea cargo environment (Source: Import Cargo Reporting Manuals - Sea Cargo Report, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service).

Diagram: Links and relationship of sea cargo reports to other reports in the sea cargo environment

21 An Import Declaration (ID) is used by importers to clear goods (with a value of more than AUD$1,000) from Customs control, as goods imported into Australia are subject to Customs control until released into "home consumption" or otherwise treated. It is the last report in the chain required to release goods from Customs control (as shown below).

22 Integrated Cargo System linking fields for sea cargo (Source: Import Cargo Reporting Overview Manual, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service).

Diagram: Integrated cargo system linking fields for sea cargo

23 In an import declaration, cargo is declared by tariff classification number, which provides information about the commodities being shipped and assigns the relevant duty that is required to be paid. However, container count by commodity is difficult because a container cannot always be tagged to a single tariff code. Therefore, a standardised measure needs to be used as a proxy to assign container counts to tariff classification numbers.

24 The Customs Value is considered the obvious choice as higher dollar values have the highest data quality due to duty and excise implications. A container count is assigned to one or more tariff classification numbers given the proportion of Customs Value relative to a given container.

25 The Cargo List Report (CLR) shown above is a statement by a shipping company about certain types of cargo being discharged from a vessel on an international voyage, covering the shipping company's own empty containers, cabotage (the transport of goods between two ports in the same country as a domestic voyage) and export cargo being repositioned prior to export. A CLR is required to obtain release of cargo where that cargo will not have an associated import declaration.


Number of containers - Container Count

26 The unit of measure used by Customs and Border Protection for container movements is a container count. It is defined as a unique instance of a given container, at a given time that has arrived in/departed from Australia from/to an overseas port.

27 The method used to count containers is to create a vessel voyage container number (VVC), which is: Vessel Identification + Voyage Number + Container Number
  • Vessel identification is the unique Lloyds identifier of the arriving vessel.
  • Voyage number is the vessel operator's voyage number for the current journey to Australia.
  • Container Number is a unique identifier assigned by the marine industry to a receptacle used in the sea cargo industry to group individual items or packages into a single larger unit load.

Number of containers - Twenty Foot Equivalent Units

28 The number of containers can also be counted and reported using the measure of Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEU), a measure based on the length of the container. One 20-foot-long container is equivalent to one TEU. A 40 foot container is equivalent to two 20 foot containers and is defined as two TEU.

29 A hybrid method was developed to establish container size where reliable data was not input by importers. This hybrid method uses container length data obtained from a number of different sources and is used to create TEU factors which can then be applied to reported container counts. Each VVC is assigned a container length. Sources for this information, their priority as an information source, and their impact in contributing to a TEU are shown in table 1 below.

Table 1 - Hybrid method used to establish container size(a)

Priority Source Organisation Source

1 Container owner Container, owner code and number range
2 Customs and Border Protection Container length as reported in Sea Cargo Report (SCR) + Statistical Mode
3 BITRE Waterline publication, 40-foot containers (%)

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Source: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

30 The method first utilises known container identification sequences where the manufacturer has deliberately built the container size in to the unique container number. Not all container manufacturers apply this principle but where available, it is accurate and can be applied to around 12% of reported containers where the size is not accurately reported.

31 The hybrid method then evaluates the statistical mode for an individual container number. In statistical terms, the mode is the value of the number or term that occurs most often in a dataset. The method looks at the number of journeys a container makes to Australia, as an operator must submit a separate Sea Cargo Report (SCR) for each international voyage made by a container to an Australian port. If, for example, a particular container makes 10 voyages to Australia (resulting in 10 SCRs), and the container length is reported in 8 of those SCRs as 40-foot-long, but is not reported in the other 2 SCRs, Customs and Border Protection will use statistical mode and assign the container a length of 40 feet. If, in the other 2 SCRs, the length is reported as 20 feet, the container will still be assigned a length of 40 feet, as this is most frequently reported value for that container.

32 Finally, for the remainder, Customs and Border Protection will employ option 3 shown in the above table, and use information by port provided in the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics Waterline publication to assign a length to the container, in order to create a TEU for the container.


Data quality of the hybrid method for determining TEU

33 The main benefit of using this hybrid method is that TEUs are derived from data with the highest confidence. However, the data still relies heavily on users to input the correct container size into the Sea Cargo Report.

Data Quality - Accuracy

Container Size

34 As shown above, 91% of the containers rely on size data recorded by the container owners or shippers. However, because Customs and Border Protection uses the statistical mode technique, this data should be relatively accurate. The Corporate Performance Reporting area of Customs and Border Protection continues to contact container owners to improve the accuracy of the data reported.

Discharge Port

35 Where a container has one or more ports of discharge the container will be assigned or tagged against the first port of discharge. In the cases where the Destination is different to the Discharge Port an underbond movement is required.

Commodity (Tariff) and Delivery Postcode

36 The tariff and delivery postcode can both be obtained from the import declaration because the container will not be cleared to leave the port unless the vessel voyage container number (VVC) reported on the sea cargo report and import declaration match.

37 Additionally, because a container can have consignments destined for one or more postcodes and/or contain goods covering one or more tariffs, container counts have been apportioned using Customs Value to provide the highest data quality.

Last Overseas Departure

38 This is not necessarily the source of the goods, given industries use of consolidations, particularly LCLs (less than full container loads) and transhipments.

Data Quality - Completeness

39 The source document used to derive container counts is the Sea Cargo Report. Discharge port code and Container Size (TEU) can be sourced from this document. However, Delivery Postcode and Commodity (tariff classification number) can only be sourced from the Formal Clearance documents (Import Declaration).

40 The Customs and Border Protection dataset used by the ABS includes Self Assessed Clearances (SACs). SACs are designed to clear goods that have a customs value of AUD$1,000 or less, while ensuring the correct reporting of revenue assessable goods is met. As delivery postcodes are not available for these clearances they are flagged in the dataset as unknown. The number of these unknown delivery postcodes was found to be negligible.

41 Empty containers are not included in the data, and informal clearance processes (which do not require postcode information to be provided as in the Import Declaration) are also excluded.

42 For more information about the attributes that make up the Sea Cargo Report, please see Appendix: Sea Cargo Attributes.