Energy Corporation Fined for Importing Asbestos into Australia
The District Court of Western Australia has convicted and imposed fines on a multi-national energy corporation for importing gaskets containing asbestos, even though the court found the company had imported the asbestos inadvertently.
The corporation, which has not been named publicly, was convicted of two counts of contravening s233 (1)(b) of the Customs Act 1901 for importing a prohibited item, namely chrysotile asbestos, contained in gaskets in a condensate metering skid and two storage tanks in 2012 and 2013.
The company was ordered to pay fines and costs totaling A$175,000 ($120,000). Australian Border Force (ABF) Superintendent for Enforcement Operations WA, Clinton Sims, said the fact that the company was unaware the imported gaskets contained asbestos at the time of import did not excuse it from liability.
“When it comes to asbestos, ignorance is not a defenfe. The onus is on importers to ensure they do not bring prohibited goods such as asbestos into Australia. In this case the company had voluntarily disclosed the asbestos detection, had co-operated with authorities and accepted liability, but ultimately it was still its responsibility to prevent the importation in the first place.”
The ABF has enhanced its capability in recent years in risk profiling and targeting for asbestos across all cargo entering Australia. Despite some countries being lawfully permitted to label or test goods declaring them asbestos free if they are below a certain threshold, the ABF reminds importers not to assume that goods labeled “asbestos free” are in fact free of asbestos or that testing of goods undertaken overseas and certified “asbestos free” meet Australia’s import requirements.