Having to export your boat when you sail out of Australian waters gets a lot of cruisers agitated. Although regulations may have not been enforced in years gone by, times have changed. Quick trips out of Australian waters are excluded, but if your boat is an Australian-registered vessel and you are intending to be out of Australia for longer than 60 days, and your boat is valued at more than $2000 (which I really hope it is), you are going to have to export your boat.
I’m not going to weigh in on whether it’s a fair rule or not (you can head to Facebook for that), but what makes this process confusing is that sailors are lumped in with all kinds of exporters of commercial goods, even though we are doing this as a one-time deal.
The system is not designed to accommodate sailors easily, so the paperwork can be hugely intimidating.
What I can do is share with you how to get the job done without paying $400 to an agent, or spending a week (as I did), downloading and sifting through government export/import documents to locate the right codes for the paperwork.
There are many, many helpful officers at Australian Border Force (the Darwin ABF team completed our forms for us the first time we exported in 2019), but most will handball you off to a customs or export/import agent. Use one of these experts if you prefer, or use the follow instructions and see my “completed paperwork” to do it yourself, without a whole lot of angst.
If you love the fact that we’ve saved you money, stick around and check out this great guide for sailors and cruisers.
Let’s cut through the confusion and talk about forms.
You will shuffle a fair bit of paperwork before clearing out of the country. First up, the Export Declaration serves to confirm with ABF your vessel details, where your boat is going (and when), and that you are sailing it out yourself (as opposed to putting it on a cargo ship).
All you need to do in order to export your boat is complete two forms (b319 and b957), supply proof of identification and lodge in person (or via email if you are remote) with ABF. Before you actually clear out of Australia, you will also need to complete what’s called a Smallcraft Impending Departure form, but that comes later. This is the form that lists all your boat’s valuables so that when you re-enter Australia, you don’t end up paying duty on the things you left with.
Step 1: Make Contact with ABF
Exporting your boat is just one step in the process of leaving Australia, so get in touch with your local Australian Border Force office to find out all that’s required for you and your crew to clear out, from your local port.
You will need to tackle extra paperwork and procedures if, for example, you are clearing out with pets or firearms on board.
Step 2: Get a CCID
A CCID is a Customs Client Identification Number and it’s required to get you listed in ABF’s import-export system. You need to complete a b319 form and supply the usual contact information (name, address, phone number and email).
You will also need to supply 100 points of identification: a copy of your passport or birth certificate earns you 70 points, and adding a copy of your home or International Drivers License, Medicare card, credit card or other bank card earns you another 35 to 40 points. Lodge (or email) your completed paperwork to ABF (see addresses below).
Step 3: File an Export Declaration
Filling out the Export Declaration (b957) will supply you with an Export Declaration Number (EDN), which ABF officials will require in order to clear you out.
Click here to download the b957 form: https://www.abf.gov.au/form-listing/forms/b957.pdf
Because this is a seriously confusing form, requiring endless codes that most people have no idea where to find, I’ve revealed ours, with codes included.
Disclaimer here, since every sailor’s departure and boat details are not the same, you need to take responsibility to ensure the details you supply to ABF are correct for the journey you are about to make.
To see what our form looked like, get our EXPORT DOCUMENT PDF direct to your INBOX
Here’s how to fill it out a b957:
EDN – leave this blank.
1. Reference – leave blank.
2. Reporting party type – tick “Owner”
3. Your Reference – write in your boat’s name/Australian registration number.
4. Reporting Party ID – add your CCID.
5. Intended date of export – add the date you intend to clear out of Australia.
6. Unique consignment reference number – leave blank.
7. Customable / Excisable indicator – tick “no”.
8. Prescribed goods indicator – tick “no”.
9. Warehouse Est. ID – leave blank.
10. Goods owner party ID (ABN/CCID) – add your CCID.
11. Branch ID (Confirming export only) – leave blank.
12. Confirming exporter type (N, Y, C) – tick “N”.
13. Export goods type – Tick “OP”.
14. Consignee name – add the boat owner’s name.
15. Consignee city – add the name of the first international port that you will enter.
16. Port of loading – add the name of the Australian port where you will clear out.
17. First port of discharge – add the name of the first international port that you will enter.
18. Final destination country code – to find the country code of the first place you intend to visit, search here. If it happens to be Indonesia, the code is: “ID”.
19. Mode of transport – tick “Sea”.
20. Vessel ID / Flight number – add your boat name and Australian registration, i.e. SV Escape Australia, ON388948.
21. Voyage Number – leave blank.
22. Cargo type – tick “N”.
23. Total number packages – 1 (Sailing vessel).
24.Total number containers – leave blank.
25. Invoice currency – AUD.
26. FOB currency – AUD.
27. Total FOB value – add the value of your boat (see your insurance valuation if applicable).
Under the section “LINE DETAILS”
28A. Line number – Leave blank.
28. Commodity Classification code (AHECC) – If yours fits this category – Sailing Vessels of a length exceeding 7.5m but not exceeding 24m – write “89032202”.
29. Goods description – Write “Private Australian sailing vessel”.
30. Goods origin code – These are the codes used to identify your home port. For example, if your Australian registered home port in is New South Wales, write AU-NS.
31. Goods origin country code(s) – If you are an Australian registered vessel, your code will be “AU”.
32. Temporary import number – leave blank.
33. Net quantity – a) Amount – write ‘1’. b) Unit – leave blank.
34. Gross Weight – a) Amount – write in the overall weight of your boat. B) Unit – write the weight measurement, i.e. Tonne.
35. Line FOB value – write in the value of your boat.
36. Permit prefix – leave blank. Permit number – leave blank.
In this section, tick the box that you are the owner/authorised principal exporter or employee of the owner/authorised principal exporter.
Next, add you name, phone number, address and email, and sign and date the form.
Step 4: Lodge your paperwork
All that’s left to do is lodge your Export Declaration (b957). ABF’s website states that you have to do this in person at an ABF office (click here for a list). If that’s no possible, inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to your local (or closest) ABF office. After your paperwork has been processed, ABF will email (or post) you your Export Declaration Advice, and you can move on to the process of clearing out.
I hope the process works effectively for you, and if you encounter anything – great service or roadblocks – let us know so we can share with other sailors. If you liked this post, stick around and check out this great guide for sailors and cruisers.
Disclaimer: Here’s the part where I say that while I’m happy to share what I know with fellow sailors, I don’t know your vessel, it’s value or what adventures you have planned. We all make mistakes but it’s your responsibility to ensure that your forms are completed correctly, regardless of the information shared freely here.