Handling explosives at ports

There are several requirements for importing and exporting explosives through a port (airport or sea port).

Imports and exports of explosives are handled at sea ports within the port's approved explosive limits and Australian Standard AS 3846 - The handling and transport of dangerous cargoes in port areas.

You should consult with port authority for port requirements and try to ensure that the loading or unloading of explosives is continuous unless it's not possible. Your safety and security management system should cover these issues.

Approved explosives limits

For a sea port, you can import or export explosives only where the port authority or port operator has an explosives port limit approved by the Chief Inspector of Explosives.

The ports with approved explosives limits for class 1 explosives, ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate emulsion are Port Alma, Port of Brisbane, Port of Townsville, Port of Cairns, Mourilyan Port and Gladstone Port.

Default explosives limits

For sea ports that don't have these approved explosives limits, the default limits that you can import or export are:

  • for explosives of class 1
    • hazard divisions 1.1, 1.2, 1.5 and 1.6 - up to 250kg
    • hazard division 1.3 - up to 2000kg
    • hazard division 1.4 - up to 400t
  • for a precursor (e.g. ammonium nitrate emulsion) - up to 25t
  • for any other explosive (e.g. ammonium nitrate, ammonium nitrate fertiliser and calcium ammonium nitrate) - up to 400t.

Requirements for safe and secure handling

Some ports can't safely or securely handle any quantity of explosives due to their proximity to populated areas, essential infrastructure or other protected works, and an unacceptable risk from potential explosives incidents at these ports.

Explosives information bulletin 50: Handling explosives at ports outlines the requirements for handling explosives through a port, as well as the requirements for importers, exporters and the port authority or port operator.

Each sea port should be able to tell you the approved explosives limits for the port (i.e. maximum quantity of explosives you can legally transit through the port). Alternatively, the Explosives Inspectorate can assist with this information, as each port is approved by the Chief Inspector of Explosives.

The Explosives Inspectorate does not approve port limits for airports. The airport operators must ensure that their activities are licensed to handle explosives and that staff with unsupervised access to restricted explosives have security clearance.