When we first arrived in Australia, we were instructed to tie up to a quarantine dock and the first person aboard was an AQIS official, Australia Quarantine and Inspection Service. “Service” is kind of a misnomer because it implies doing something for you that you ordered or wanted, when in actuality, we would have preferred NOT to have this service, though we understood the reasoning behind it.
The AQIS guy spent about an hour on the boat inspecting nooks and crannies, drawers and lockers, food and stored goods. He was looking for 1) sick crew 2) animals, bugs, rodents and other non-human liveaboards and 3) any indication of worms, termites or other critters eating our boat. Basically, anything unwanted in Australia. Domestic animals arriving on vessels have very strict rules that apply.
We were also required to show proof that we'd anti-fouled the boat bottom within the last six months. He was required to collect any fresh produce aboard (we had none left), took away our honey and mayo and few other odds and ends. We saved our eggs by hard boiling them just before arrival and promising to eat them post haste. He inspected our hiking boots to make sure they were clean and we weren't importing foreign soil. He emptied our vacuum cleaner. All went into a large black bag marked QUARANTINE which was headed to the incinerator.
For this, we paid $330 AUD, the largest amount we've ever paid to any foreign country for entry. We received a one-year Pratique which allowed us to sail in Australian waters until expiry. We received only one year because we were considered “high risk”. We asked “why high risk. We're a fiberglass boat?” and were told “95% of boats arriving are considered high risk.” That wasn't really an acceptable answer, but we didn't press it. Well, one year is up.
Actually it expired one month ago. We did not renew the Pratique, but not from lack of trying to be on time. We began calling AQIS Hobart in mid-October. We spoke to a pleasant woman who asked why we were calling and all sorts of pertinent questions and said she'd have an officer call back right away. No one called within a week and so we called again. Another pleasant woman answered, asked the same pertinent questions and said she'd have an officer call us back if there was a problem or something we had to do. No one called. We were off the hook or so we thought. Two days ago one of those pleasant women called back. She said she'd trying calling previously, but got no answer. That would be the “no-bars on the cell phone” reception (or lack thereof) in Kettering.
She asked exactly what it was we needed. We explained once again our situation and provided all the necessary and pertinent information. She said she'd have an officer call us right back. And this time, we did. We got a phone call from one of the officers. Yes, indeed, we needed another inspection. He was certainly pleasant enough, but there was no getting around the inspection requirement. When would we be in Hobart?
We have a problem with the logic in requiring another inspection after we've been here for a whole year. We figure after a year if there was something wrong with the boat or us, we would have infected everyone by now, but evidently AQIS does not agree with our logic. Even if we accepted the logic, we had a problem with another costly charge for another inspection. It really kills the budget...and the Christmas spirit. Ah, well. Our philosophy has always been, if you don't like the neighborhood (or the rules of the country), leave. We've chosen to stay and thus the onus is on us.
As soon as we arrived on the Hobart pier, both AQIS and Customs stopped by to “say hello”. Customs inspected our newly renewed paperwork and left without issue. AQIS scheduled our inspection. As it turns out, it was not much to worry about. He did, indeed, poke around the boat and verify that anti-fouling was done, but he was quite pleasant and efficient and pronounced us “healthy” and renewed our Pratique for another year. The impact on the budget was not nearly as painful as we feared since this was a renewal. The fines for not renewing the Pratique and being caught … more than we want to contemplate. Pays to play by the rules.