Steps to importing containers and cargo

To import containers, with or without cargo, you need to comply with the import health standards for the type of container and any cargo and packaging. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.
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What you need to know

An overview of importing containers and cargo from start to finish.

When importing containers, even empty ones returning to New Zealand, you need to meet various import requirements.

Importing related products

Processes for importing products related to containers are elsewhere on this website. Follow these steps if you're importing:

To import containers with or without cargo successfully you need to know about:
  • the requirements listed in the import health standard (IHS) for the type of container (sea or air)
  • the guidance document to follow when for importing sea containers
  • the requirements listed in the IHS for the type of cargo inside the container
  • the requirements  when using wood or other packaging
  • documentation you may need to complete, including a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) application and quarantine declaration
  • providing information about the container to MPI at least 12 hours before it arrives
  • arranging a transitional facility for your type of container, and its cargo
  • relevant fees and charges.

MPI container audit

MPI may also request an audit inspection as part of the 1% sea container intervention monitoring programme.
Customs NZ will notify you if your container is to be inspected by MPI as part of the audit programme.

Wood packaging requirements

If you are using packaging made from wood (like wooden pallets or crates) in your consignment, you'll need to make sure the packaging complies with the requirements.

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Consider using a customs broker

A customs broker will help you get import entry clearance. Some services provided by the New Zealand Customs Service can only be accessed by registered customs brokers.
Many freight and transport companies employ their own brokers but if you need help finding one, contact the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation.

Comply with IHS requirements for the type of container

The import health standard (IHS) tells you what you need to do to import your container.

Download the IHS for sea containers [PDF, 320 KB]

Aircraft operators must comply with the IHS for freight and baggage containers. If you are using an air container, be aware of the aircraft operator's requirements for freight and baggage.

Download the IHS for air containers [PDF, 503 KB]

Comply with the import procedures for your type of cargo

You'll also need to meet the requirements for importing the type of cargo or products in your container, including meeting the requirements detailed in the IHS for each product.

Prepare the required documentation for sea containers

Before you send your sea container to New Zealand, you need to:

  • get verification your container has been inspected and is free from contamination. (Use a quarantine declaration form)
  • apply for a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC).

Note, there are 2 types of BACCs. One for containers with cargo, and another for empty containers.

Arrange inspection and get a quarantine declaration

Your container must be accompanied by a quarantine declaration verifying that it has been inspected before being exported to New Zealand and is free from contamination.
The declaration should be completed and signed by a manager of the packing or exporting facility.

If you're a regular importer of containers to New Zealand, you can apply to have your quarantine declaration approved on a biennial basis.

Apply for a BACC

You or your customs broker need to apply for a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC). You can either complete an electronic BACC application (eBACCa) or download and return the forms.

To apply online to complete an eBACCA, you first need to register with B2BE – the company that hosts the eBACCA service and software.

If you are an importer or broker, talk to B2BE  about geting access to the eBACCa software.

Download a list of eBACCA tracking application FAQs

If you don't want to use eBACCa then complete the BACC form. Choose the right form, depending whether your container has cargo inside, or is empty. Complete the form and fax it to MPI in Auckland on +64 9 909 8584.

Download the BACC application form (containers and cargo) [PDF, 303 KB]

Download the BACC application form (for empty containers only) [DOC, 195 KB]

BACC Applications – Common Issues [PDF, 99 KB]

If you are a current agent and have an urgent application, read the criteria that apply:

Register to use Trade Single Window (optional)

Trade Single Window (TSW) is a joint initiative of the New Zealand Customs Service and MPI.  If you're not using a customs broker, you may choose to use the TSW to securely submit online craft and cargo information to MPI and other government departments.  If you choose this option you will need to register to use it.

Submit BACC application and required information before the container arrives

To avoid possible delays, it is recommended that you or your customs broker submit the BACC application to New Zealand Customs Services or MPI at least 12 hours before your container and cargo arrives in New Zealand.

The documentation you send must include the:

  • container number and type
  • country of origin
  • port of loading
  • New Zealand port of discharge
  • description of the cargo and packaging
  • a copy of the quarantine declaration
  • tariff code
  • importer details
  • exporter details
  • New Zealand transitional facility destination.
If there's cargo and packaging in the container

Also include the documentation for any cargo and packaging, as listed in a product's IHS, invoices or packing list.
If you're shipping personal effects, include an inventory of the items in each container with your consignment. This will help MPI to identify any risk items that may be in your consignment.

Arrange transport to a transitional facility

Containers arriving in New Zealand must go to a transitional facility to be packed or unpacked. The type of facility used depends on the type of cargo it contains, if any. The transition facility may be at the wharf or airport, or some other approved location.
You or your customs broker will need to arrange transport for your container from the port to a transitional facility, before it arrives in New Zealand.

Comply with on-arrival inspections

MPI will check the container when it arrives in New Zealand to make sure it complies with the IHS. Inspections are done either at the place of arrival or a transitional facility, and include checks for:

  • correct documentation
  • signs of pests and diseases
  • evidence of contaminants (detritus, soil, disease, and pests).

What to do with contamination

If serious contamination, such as a live organism, is found in a container or your cargo, you will be given the option to:

  • treat the container (for example, by fumigation)
  • identify the organism (and treat it if it's a regulated pest)
  • reship the container or cargo   
  • destroy the container or cargo (for example, by deep burial or incineration).

All treatments have to be done at a transitional facility by an approved treatment provider. You are liable for any costs associated with non-compliance or contamination.

Download the list of approved treatment suppliers [PDF, 285 KB]

How you know your container is cleared

Getting MPI clearance for your container and cargo.

Your container will be cleared if it has been inspected and meets all the requirements of the IHS for the container and its contents.

A biosecurity clearance will be issued.

Who to contact

If you have questions about importing containers and cargo, email

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