Australia wants no asbestos at all within its borders. But now this zero-tolerance policy is affecting the import of classic cars. Fifty of them were intercepted at the border this year, their owners face huge costs to make their cars comply with the regulations.
Basically, this is about two problems. One is that the Australians are more strict in their prohibition of asbestos than most other countries. In some countries, things like brake pads are allowed to hold a small amount of asbestos. But those brake pads would be off limits in Australia.
The other problem is that classic cars often contain classic parts. And items like gaskets or clutch lining of 30, 40 or 50 years old, almost certainly contain asbestos.
Of course, the problem goes for car parts as well as for complete cars. If you try to import a load of New Old Stock brake pads, for instance, the Australians will not allow it.
Since 2004 Australia has declared war on asbestos. Not a shred of the material is allowed within its borders.
So the Australians are frantically checking every object that enters the country for asbestos. By the way, the zero-tolerance also applies to goods being exported from Australia.
The Australian government clearly states that it’s one of the very few countries with an absolute ban on asbestos. Most countries do allow for low concentrations of the stuff or for particular types of asbestos.
And indeed in India and China, asbestos is still being used in the production of car parts. In the United States of America, all major car manufacturers state that they don’t use any asbestos in their cars.
But several American manufacturers of replacement parts still use it, mainly because there is no federal law about it.
That means that even new car parts can contain asbestos.
Up to AUD 20,000
Since this year, the Australian Border Force (ABF) has come down hard on anyone who imports goods that might contain asbestos.
As for classic cars, this year alone 50 cars were intercepted. The reason is that car parts like brake lining, clutch lining and gaskets are on the list of risky goods.
On the list are all sorts of cars, American, British, Italian, Japanese and even Australian. Most of them were exported from the USA but some came from the Netherlands, Japan or even New Zealand.
The importer of the car will have to show the ABF official documents that state that the car is free of asbestos. If such documents cannot be produced, the ABF will arrange for the risky parts of the car to be tested. That can take up quite some time and money.
The importer will be fined AUD 3,000 and will, of course, have to pay for the entire process of testing. All in all, this can cost many thousands of dollars, even up to AUD 20,000, says News Corp Australia in a recent article.
It is therefore advised that any classic or vintage car (or motorcycle!) that is exported from any country to Australia, is first checked for materials that contain asbestos.
This test must in Australia be executed by a laboratory that is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA).
Of course, the best thing to do is to test the car before shipping it to Australia. For testing in other countries, the laboratory must be accredited by a NATA-recognised equivalent.
So far we have not heard of any ways to escape this problem. Maybe someday, someone will try to bring a car to Australia that has no brake pads, no clutch, and no gaskets…?
More information on this subject is to be found on the website of the Australian Border Force.