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View Full Version : Australia - importing a Uke with Mastodon/mammoth ivory inlay?



Tack
09-12-2011, 04:07 PM
Hope some fellow Aussies can help out here.

Looking to have a custom Uke made for me overseas and posted to Australia. Potentially has fossilised (Mastodon/Mammoth) Ivory as some part of the inlay.
I have just spoken with the Australian CITES Management Authority who confirm that it is legal to import it without a permit (and are sending me an email to that effect) BUT the customs team could seize it if they think it is modern ivory until confirmed otherwise...

So has any Australian here had an import issue from OS for potentially "protected" or CITES listed species with their Ukulele?

Thanks :cool:

southcoastukes
09-12-2011, 04:22 PM
This is a BIG BIG mess. Not so much because of the regulations, but because nobody anywhere has a clue as to how they will be enforced.

I'm about to send an instrument to Australia. I'm getting a self-declaration form from LMI (or modifying it if I don't like what I see), and permissos (we build in Central America) for every wood in the instrument. I'll include in this self-declaration, that the bone is from a cow.

Whether this does any good is anyone's guess. You are simply declaring that these are the materials your intrument is made from. It's still up to customs to decide if they beleive you. I'm just hoping this it is better (and not worse) than no declaration at all. As a a matter of fact, there are no official declaration forms, no perscribed penalties, nothing except a rule that says "don't do it - and if we think you did, we'll take your instrument". If they decide there are prohibited materials involved, it's destroyed.

I'm not an anti-government type, but clearly there are times when things are not well thought out. Hopefully the situation is rectified before long.

Tack
09-12-2011, 04:36 PM
This is a BIG BIG mess. Not so much because of the regulations, but because nobody anywhere has a clue as to how they will be enforced.

I'm about to send an instrument to Australia. I'm getting a self-declaration form from LMI (or modifying it if I don't like what I see), and permissos (we build in Central America) for every wood in the instrument. I'll include in this self-declaration, that the bone is from a cow.

Whether this does any good is anyone's guess. You are simply declaring that these are the materials your intrument is made from. It's still up to customs to decide if they beleive you. I'm just hoping this it is better (and not worse) than no declaration at all. As a a matter of fact, there are no official declaration forms, no perscribed penalties, nothing except a rule that says "don't do it - and if we think you did, we'll take your instrument". If they decide there are prohibited materials involved, it's destroyed.

I'm not an anti-government type, but clearly there are times when things are not well thought out. Hopefully the situation is rectified before long.

Thanks Dirk,
I understand that there CAN be problems - but has anyone actually had any? I know lots of us buy Ukes overseas, they get posted to Australia and there is no problem. I did that with my concert which had no specific declaration except that it was a ukulele (I think.... been a few months..) It is more the inlay, CITES concerns I have - I suspect your EXPORT restrictions might be more stringent than my import ones....?
As for
'If they decide there are prohibited materials involved, it's destroyed. - that is not a draconian imposition enacted on a whim but rather a process of investigation and dialogue :D

southcoastukes
09-12-2011, 05:18 PM
We import everything from Central America to the US - never had a problem. We've sent a number of instruments to Australia - never had a problem.

What has me worried, however, is that the reports of seizures really began to ramp up in the last several months. The ones I'm aware of are US and Canada (none of ours involved), but that doesn't mean Australia is safe. What I am trying to convey is that at this particular moment things are in flux, and past history is not a good indicator of anything.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-12-2011, 06:11 PM
If this were last year I'd say go for it. But given the volitility of the situation today I wouldn't risk it. I'm getting to the point where I don't even want to send a cardboard box out of the country. :(

pulelehua
09-12-2011, 09:27 PM
If this were last year I'd say go for it. But given the volitility of the situation today I wouldn't risk it. I'm getting to the point where I don't even want to send a cardboard box out of the country. :(

If you'd stop using Brazilian cardboard you'd stay out of trouble...

Tack
09-12-2011, 09:35 PM
We import everything from Central America to the US - never had a problem. We've sent a number of instruments to Australia - never had a problem.

What has me worried, however, is that the reports of seizures really began to ramp up in the last several months. The ones I'm aware of are US and Canada (none of ours involved), but that doesn't mean Australia is safe. What I am trying to convey is that at this particular moment things are in flux, and past history is not a good indicator of anything.


If this were last year I'd say go for it. But given the volitility of the situation today I wouldn't risk it. I'm getting to the point where I don't even want to send a cardboard box out of the country. :(

Thanks again gents...

Just to clarify - Are you having problems at YOUR end with exporting these items (i.e. getting them out of the USA) or at the recipients end? DO they target "Official businesses" more so than private individuals with the exportation in your opinion?

Certainly at this (Australian) end I am finding that everything LOOKS black and white and well documented. There are specific prohibited items and those that are not. It is up to your customer to lodge an importation request HERE to facilitate the process of clearing through customs (at least for Items with declared value over A$1000). If you want <!> the links to the official forms/documents I can dig them out for you. I may have been lucky but the people I have spoken to so far in the various departments seem knowledgeable and helpful.

Of course, what they say and what actually happens are potentially two different things. Hence my original question which I would now amend to-
Have Australians actually had significant problems recently bringing in higher value personal Ukes particularly if they have a Paua inlay or fossilised ivory?

kissing
09-13-2011, 04:16 AM
I don't really see the problem.

Box the uke up.
Goto post office.
In Item description "Ukulele" or sometimes I write in brackets "Small guitar instrument" so the muggles don't get confused.
Put an estimate of the value of the instrument.


And ship it off...


I really can't imagine customs confiscating and investigating a "small guitar".

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-13-2011, 06:29 AM
I really can't imagine customs confiscating and investigating a "small guitar".

Well, then you haven't been paying attention!

southcoastukes
09-13-2011, 07:57 AM
I really can't imagine customs confiscating and investigating a "small guitar".

What Chuck said!

Things are definitely changing in this regard over the last months. The CITIES prohibitions on endangered materials that Tack is speaking of are suddenly now being enforced by customs agents on individual shipments in a number of countries. The vast majority of countries have adopted these standards, and while I'd also guess that the majority aren't enforcing them yet on individual shipments, I'd guess that it is only a matter of a very short time before you see it everywhere as a matter of course.

Not only is it happening on shipped instruments, but people are having intruments confiscated at customs during international travel.

As I was trying to explain, it's a recent development, and no one really knows yet the kind of documentation required to comply. The scary part is that I doubt there are clear rules on these procedures with the various agencies inspecting and/or confiscating instruments.

To get back to Tack's original question, there are no problems with single shipment exports from the US. In a US to Australia shipment, all the action would be with the officials in Australia. If you have some sort of system where the recipient can pre-clear to some extent, a single item import permit, then you have a better system than we do.

I could still see problems with verifying documents (hope your builder has a receipt for his Fossil Ivory that customs would consider legit), but it sounds like a step in the right direction. Please post the links. I have a Plectrum Guitar that should be headed that way in a couple of weeks.

PhilUSAFRet
09-13-2011, 10:41 AM
Hmmmm, I often wonder what to do with my ivory. Have several ivory chopsticks I bought in Okinawa in 1961, and some antique letter openers I bought in England in the mid-60's along with a large sperm whale tooth on a woven raffia chord. I also have quite a few very old ivory piano keys, a small fossil ivory tusk. Have considered using some of it for nut/saddle, etc. What to do!

Tack
09-13-2011, 02:22 PM
Well, then you haven't been paying attention!

:D


What Chuck said!

Things are definitely changing in this regard over the last months. The CITIES prohibitions on endangered materials that Tack is speaking of are suddenly now being enforced by customs agents on individual shipments in a number of countries. The vast majority of countries have adopted these standards, and while I'd also guess that the majority aren't enforcing them yet on individual shipments, I'd guess that it is only a matter of a very short time before you see it everywhere as a matter of course.


If you have some sort of system where the recipient can pre-clear to some extent, a single item import permit, then you have a better system than we do.

I could still see problems with verifying documents (hope your builder has a receipt for his Fossil Ivory that customs would consider legit), but it sounds like a step in the right direction. Please post the links. I have a Plectrum Guitar that should be headed that way in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for that - Hopefully <!> there will be NO CITES listed items on any custom uke I am looking at (so far everything I have listed has been 'cleared' by the officials I have talked to at this end)

As for "pre clearing" - it is more making a declaration - all goods worth over $1000 AUD WILL be Held pending payment of taxes - and are much more likely to be examined etc.

This page (http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page5653.asp#ImportingGoodsByInternationalMail) has a lot of the details , and this is the form (http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/B374-Importdeclaration-goodN10-July10FinalTypeableversion.pdf) that the Australian end will need to lodge ...

As far as Quarantine etc goes... THIS (http://www.daff.gov.au/aqis) is the main page and HERE (http://www.aqis.gov.au/icon32/asp/ex_querycontent.asp) is the Import conditions database....this has information about the need for import permits (generally NOT required for personal items). Specifically - THIS is the wooden articles manufactured information (http://www.aqis.gov.au/icon32/asp/ex_casecontent.asp?intNodeId=8913372&intCommodityId=7527&Types=none&WhichQuery=Go+to+full+text&intSearch=1&LogSessionID=0) for the usa -> australia (includes musical instruments)

Basically, you can assume that the Australian end will pay around 10% import tax/duty of the assessed value - not the declared value - so if you 'say' it is worth $900 but customs think $3500 then it is the $3500 customs works on; the buyer may have increased costs if they choose to use an customs broker to do the work for them ( all transparent from your - the senders - point of view). So LOOKS like a bit of paper work and time at this end.

The remaining issue is what verification they might want of the materials used.... the only sticking point I could possible foresee is the fossilised Ivory (if that is included) which they will need to confirm is exactly that... looking onto that now. I love a challenge :)

Tack
09-13-2011, 02:43 PM
Hmmmm, I often wonder what to do with my ivory. Have several ivory chopsticks I bought in Okinawa in 1961, and some antique letter openers I bought in England in the mid-60's along with a large sperm whale tooth on a woven raffia chord. I also have quite a few very old ivory piano keys, a small fossil ivory tusk. Have considered using some of it for nut/saddle, etc. What to do!

I think you will find that those are exempt as they are "pre-Cites". If you can prove their age or get their age verified in some way you would not have a problem. There is a particular process in Australia to do that for importation or export of elephant Ivory (pre-cites only!)

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-13-2011, 02:57 PM
Except for the koa I use, I can't say with any certainty where any of my materials come from. For instance, I bought several large cants of ebony lately from a guy who had it for 20 some years and got it in exchange for shearing somebody's sheep. He had no idea where it came from. Even when I've asked my two major wood suppliers where my Spanish cedar or cocobolo comes from, they could guess but couldn't say for sure. Then there's the whole pearl shell situation to consider. I grind my own black pearl that I harvested in the 80s in the Tuamotus. Can I prove that? Do the white areas of the shell look anything like South African abalone? I hate the thought of selling an ukulele to anyone and having the chance of it getting nabbed because I couldn't document the origin of the materials.
These regulations don't only affect instrument builders but also entertainers (or anyone else) that want to cross an international border with their instrument.
Chuck Erickson (the Duke of Pearl) put it succinctly in a recent MIMF post. In part:

"There's a lot of scoffing and uninformed argument on many of the forums about all of this being totally overblown and exaggerated, but believe me the largest to smallest guitar companies, as well as NAMM CEO's and their legal counsel don't share that light-hearted optimism. When someone insists this is all about nothing, just think "ostrich"."

Tack
09-14-2011, 12:55 AM
Thanks for that Chuck.
I appreciate your concerns! I am sure your customers would feel almost as much pain as you if their precious awaited MB got nabbed!

Interestingly (?) the origin of materials seems to be very infrequently relevant for imports here - I have continued my research and can find little I information on it at all. I do understand that in the USA it can be an issue - perhaps sometimes (only) for political considerations as well as conservation. I think we are too apathetic :)
Also I note your comment on ebony.....I am not aware of any restrictions here on the import of ebony containing products at all - perhaps we should have some though :)

consitter
09-14-2011, 01:12 AM
If you'd stop using Brazilian cardboard you'd stay out of trouble...

Now that's funny...I don't care what anyboby says!! Get'er done!!!