Process before project activities commence

Once you receive notification your project has been approved for inclusion in the Australian Antarctic Science Program, you must have the required environmental authorisations and permits (i.e. environmental approvals) in place before you commence project activity. Please refer to the Environmental approvals and permits page for further information.

You should also be contacted by Supply Planning to discuss your cargo requirements, including special handling requirements for any samples returning to Australia. These requirements will be documented in a Sample Transport Agreement, which you must have finalised prior to commencing project activities. The Sample Transport Agreement must be in place before your project's Service Level Agreement can be finalised.

In order to import samples into Australia from an Antarctic station or the Southern Ocean, you will require an Import Permit. Import Permits help manage Australia’s biosecurity risks and are separate from environmental authorisations and collection permits. For assistance with this process, you can email before project activities commence.

Due to Australian customs and biosecurity requirements, environmental samples are classed as reportable cargo and cannot be carried from Antarctica, the Southern Ocean or sub-Antarctic islands as accompanied personal effects (carry-on baggage or checked baggage). Samples must be reported in AAD's electronic consignment system, eCon, prior to the Cargo Required by Date (CRBD) for the nominated return transport.

Sample transport process

This procedure must be followed and completed prior to the sample owner departing station or by the cargo required by date, whichever is earliest. If a sample cannot be handed over prior to the cargo required by date, late cargo procedures will need to be followed. Contact if you have any questions about what this means for your samples.

Following the below steps will help ensure effective and efficient importation, clearance and movement of samples. After samples are transported back to Australia and cleared for movement by regulators, samples will be on-forwarded directly to the intended destination (approved arrangement). Samples destined for a non-AAD institution will not be stored in AAD facilities after clearance, unless otherwise agreed. These requirements will be discussed in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Sample Transport Agreement processes before project activities commence. If you have any questions about the transport of samples, please contact

Documentation requirements

The following documentation is required in order to facilitate the transport and import of samples:

  • Sample Transport Agreement: must be in place prior to commencement of project activities, please contact in order to start this process.
  • eCon consignment: consignments must be submitted in eCon prior to the Cargo Required by Date.
  • Import Permit or BICON case: sample owner must send a copy of their import permit or BICON case to prior to the cargo required by date (not required for samples from Macquarie Island).
  • Letter of Declaration: sample owner must send a signed letter of declaration to prior to the cargo required by date (not required for samples from Macquarie Island).
  • Sample Transport QA Checklist: sample owner must complete the first two sections prior to sample handover, section three will be completed during handover with the Station Supply Officer.

Labelling/packaging requirements

Before handing consignment over to the Station Supply Officer, sample owners must ensure that the packages are correctly packaged and labelled. If the sample consignment contains dangerous goods, sample owners should discuss dangerous goods specific packaging and labelling requirements with the Station Supply Officer prior to handover. Dangerous Goods consignments must be accompanied by a Safety Data Sheet.

Sample owners should double check the following prior to handover:

1 - Packaging

Sample owners have a responsibility to ensure that they package their samples appropriately to minimise the risk of sample integrity being compromised during transport. The following information is intended to assist sample owners in determining appropriate packing materials.

Suitable containers
  • Sturdy, good quality plastic boxes are recommended, preferably PP5 polypropylene; these can be used to transport project consumables to station, then for sample transport on return.
  • Lids that can be secured closed with a cable tie are recommended, preferably the black UV stabilised variety of ties as others tend to become brittle and snap when frozen.
  • If using cartons, ensure good quality fibreboard boxes are used and that they are taped closed securely. If your samples are temperature sensitive, there are white cartons available in the green store to help distinguish them from ambient cargo.
Unsuitable containers
  • Thin, brittle plastic boxes are unsuitable for sample transport and storage; this type of plastic is easily smashed/broken during transport.
  • Plastic clips on lids are often inadequate to secure lids and/or are easily breakable.
  • Thin cardboard boxes are unsuitable and are likely to fall apart during transport.
Insulated outers

Insulated containers, such as eskies, can be used as an extra outer packaging layer for greater thermal protection of samples. They can be especially useful for:

  • Ultra-low temperatures (−80°C): for transit between freezer facilities (station to ship, ship to shore etc.)
  • Frozen or 'Do Not Freeze' samples that may be subject to prolonged periods outside of temperature-controlled storage (for example, transit from Casey station to Wilkins Aerodrome and duration of flight back to Australia, or intracontinental transfers between stations)

Some projects use custom made solutions rather than off the shelf options to ensure that they are fit for purpose and provide adequate thermal insulation.

Dangerous goods

Some dangerous goods require UN rated packaging for transport. Sample owners should provide their own suitable dangerous goods packaging materials or ensure that the limited range of materials available on stations are sufficient to transport their specific dangerous goods consignments prior to arriving on station.

2 - Labelling

  • Remove old/previous labels from all outer packages. Check this especially carefully for any reused outer packaging
  • Add a yellow biosecurity label or white non-biosecurity sample label as required, with all applicable fields completed
  • Add temperature labelling with required storage temperature (matching information provided in Econ), if required
  • Add Dangerous Goods Labelling if applicable.

3 - Documentation

Attach the following to the first package of the consignment in a document slip:

  • Sample Transport QA Checklist, with first two sections completed by the sender
  • Import Permit (or BICON case), first section only with commodity type marked/highlighted (not required for samples imported from Macquarie Island)
  • Signed Letter of Declaration (not required for samples imported from Macquarie Island)
  • Dangerous Goods SDS, if applicable.

Sample Handover

The sample owner needs to make an appointment with the Station Supply Officer prior to the cargo required by date to arrange a suitable time to handover samples and complete the consignment acceptance and QA processes.

During handover, the Station Supply Officer will electronically accept the sample consignment in Econ and ensure that the information in Econ matches that provided in the Sample Transport QA Checklist and the labelling on the sample packaging. Section three of the Sample Transport QA Checklist will be completed and signed by both the sample owner and the Station Supply Officer.

The samples will then be stored in an appropriate storage location in preparation for transport.

Import into Australia

Samples being sent from Antarctica and the Southern Ocean need to be cleared through Australia’s customs and biosecurity import processes. Supply Chain Operations’ Import/Export team will facilitate this using the documentation provided by your project. Samples cannot be moved from the Cargo and Biosecurity Centre until the relevant customs clearance and biosecurity import directions are received and, in some cases, inspection may be required prior to receiving clearance. Please note that while Supply Chain Operations will endeavour to ensure this process is carried out efficiently, the AAD does not have control over how long this process takes.

Once the imported goods can be moved, the import/export team will be contact the sample receiver to arrange suitable transport to the intended destination. If you have any questions about this process, please contact