Our story begins in 2003 when the Australian government issued a zero-tolerance ban on any and all asbestos products, aimed mainly at imported Chinese drywall, a problem America also faced at the time. Fast forward to March 6, 2017 when, without prior warning to Shipping and Customs agents, let alone to owners, the Australian Border Force (ABF) began randomly testing all imported collector cars for asbestos, without any industry consultation, procedures or practices in place. One of our clients had two cars already en-route to Australia and so had no choice but to comply. One was a 1966 Shelby Mustang 350 GT and the second a stock 1966 Mustang donor-car, found together as “barn finds” and imported into Australia for restoration.
Making rules on the run
Inspectors were picked from an ABF approved list of asbestos assessors, none of whom had collector car experience since this was an all-new process. An ABF officer and a representative of the customs brokers also had to be in attendance while the owner/importer was required to provide two mechanics, tools, a floor jack, jack stands, safety clothing and masks. All five charged by the hour, with the work being done at the customs wharf.
The inspection of the Mustangs took a full 8-hour day times five people. The front brake pads, rear brake shoes, exhaust manifold and exhaust pipe gaskets from both cars plus the add-on A/C compressor from the stock Mustang were all taken for inspection. Some of the sealer from inside the wheel wells, around the firewall and the caulking around the windshield were also removed for testing. Additionally, samples were cut from the headliner material, the door frame inner padding, the hood scoop, the brake air ducts, the windshield washer bag and sample sections were cut from the wiring loom. As the 350 GT was pushed onto a hoist the ribbed aluminium oil pan fins were damaged. The pleas of both mechanics to cease the destructive sample-taking were ignored by the inspector, the customs agent and the ABF officer. As the day wound down the inspector recommended the removal of the engine and transmission for disassembly and removal of the front fenders and doors for further examination. Because of that day’s interpretation of the regulations, the owner was not allowed to be at the inspection.
Moving to plan “B”
Meanwhile, across the continent
ABF again changes the rules
Back to plan “A”
Thanks Stacey for the post.