Containers and Cargo

Sea containers arrive every day in New Zealand from all over the world, bringing with them the possibility of new unwanted pests and diseases. These can hitch-hike to New Zealand in imported cargo or shipping containers. To prevent this from happening and to protect our natural environment, industry and population, MPI has developed a number of requirements for importing containers and cargo to New Zealand.

Importing sea containers

Shipping via sea container is often an economical way to import goods from overseas. However there are a number of regulations to comply with in order to do this.

If you are a private business wishing to import goods in sea containers you will need to have access to a transitional facility approved by MPI to receive containers. This may either be on your business premises or at another business, such as a freight forwarding agency.

Getting your container to a Transitional Facility

On arrival in New Zealand sea containers will be directed to a transitional facility. A biosecurity direction must be given before the container can be taken to the transitional facility. This will be arranged by a customs broker, freight forwarder or an importer.

The importer or agent should submit the following to the MPI Clearance Service:

Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) application

The BACC application should be signed and faxed to your nearest MPI Clearance Service office. They will generate a BACC if the information submitted is accepted. Goods that are not considered risk goods (do not have an associated mandatory Import Health Standard) do not need a BACC but do still require a Customs Delivery Order.

If you are a regular importer or agent and you have the appropriate eBACCa software, you can send electronic BACC applications.

If your consignment is arriving via NZ Post, fill in the BACC Application and email or fax +64 09 909 8640.

Sea container quarantine declaration

Every container entering New Zealand must have an accompanying quarantine declaration. This attests to the cleanliness of the sea container and whether or not it is carrying wood packaging, which can harbor wood-boring insects or fungi. The container must be inspected internally and externally to ensure it is clean (free of dirt, grass, insects, seed, etc). The declaration should then be completed and signed by a manager of the packing or exporting facility.

If containers arrive in New Zealand with contamination this can result in delays, and the container may have to be cleaned and re-inspected before it can be delivered to the final destination.

Checking a sea container

All sea containers must be checked by a trained accredited person. This is a person who has taken and passed the approved accredited person training course on biosecurity awareness and sea containers.

The results of all container checks must be recorded and these records held by the transitional facility. If contamination is found in or on the container or goods then MPI must be notified. This is done via a sea container inspection report (container check). When a sea container is found to be clean MPI does not need to receive the container check, but a record of all checks must still be kept on file (see an example recording register).

MPI Biosecurity Inspectors will check your container check register during your routine facility audit.

MPI requires container check records to be sent either online (offsite link to or by filling out and faxing the following log sheet form Link to PDF document (59 KB) when any of the following are found:

  • Live organisms
  • Fungus or contamination on wood packaging
  • Other biosecurity contamination (such as seeds, dirt, leaves, dead insects, etc) that is swept up and placed in the biosecurity bin
  • Wood packaging material that is not ISPM 15 stamped
  • Other restricted packaging materials (such as straw or used tyres)

If live organisms are found call 0800 809 966 immediately.

Enquiries relating to accredited person approvals can be directed to

What to do with contamination

If serious contamination (such as live organisms) is found in a container the importer has the option to:

  • Treat the container (for example by fumigation)
  • Identify the organism (and treat if a restricted pest)
  • Reship the product or
  • Destroy the product.

For more information on biosecurity treatments go to Treatment Providers.

General contamination such as dirt, dust, leaves, seeds, etc, can be swept up and placed in the secure biosecurity bin.

Temporary transitional facilities

Under special circumstances an importer may apply for a one-off approval as a temporary transitional facility. This is only applicable to goods that are unable to be delivered to a fully approved transitional facility due to their fragile nature (minimal handling desirable), or for one-off events (such as concert tour equipment that must be delivered and set up on site at the venue).

This may not be used for ongoing receipt of goods and will have an expiry date.

Cost and fees

There are costs associated with importing containers, and fees for any MPI actions relating to non-conforming containers (e.g. a container without a Quarantine Declaration). Additional fees will be charged for the clearance of containers carrying risks goods.

MPI will charge for the approval and on-going monitoring of all transitional facilities. These charges will be based on the current Biosecurity (Costs) Regulations (offsite link to made under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Empty sea container operational trial

Page last updated: 11 July 2014