Customs data

Customs data is valuable for understanding import and export commodities passing through Australia’s ports, and airports. Information is submitted by exporters and importers or their agents to the Integrated Cargo System, managed by Australian Border Force.

The Customs data on the National Freight Data Hub is from the Australian Bureau of Statistics International Merchandise Trade data. This is a detailed quarterly dataset extracted from the ABF Integrated Cargo System. It contains commodity information by tonnes and value, port of departure, port of arrival, country of origin and destination, and mode of transport.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics cleans and aggregates the data by making adjustments for coverage, timing and valuation. Further, as part of the confidentiality process, some of the statistics for certain commodities are restricted in order to prevent their identification. The ABS Methodology provides detailed information about the data cleaning process undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics provides the data to the National Freight Data Hub under a creative commons licence and releases the historic data through the Catalogue.

This project contributes to our understanding of many enduring questions for freight, including:

  • What freight is being moved, to, from, and around Australia?
  • Where is freight being moved?
  • How is freight being moved?
  • How can we enhance supply chain visibility?

The purpose

There are significant benefits to making more customs data openly available. In particular, this kind of information can support investment planning decisions made by industry and governments.

The limitations of the data currently available mean users should exercise caution when drilling down on specifics. The Hub will continue to work with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Border Force to improve the insights and quality of data made available to industry.


Users

More detailed data will assist both governments and industry in prioritising infrastructure investments as well as targeting regulation and policy changes to support efficient port and airport operations.

Container ports perform domestic origin and destination supply chain studies to improve internal modelling and grow their operations. Future Australian Border Force customs data will streamline and remove duplication in the data collection and preparation effort that goes into this modelling, and reduce the cost of performing these studies as well as better inform timing of, and increase certainty for, investment decisions. The Hub will work closely with stakeholders in government and industry to understand the confidentiality responsibilities and limitations of the data while aiming to improve the data available for decision makers.

About the data

  • Dataset name: Customs data.
  • Data owner: Australian Bureau of Statistics International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia - information consultancy service.
  • Operator Coverage: Most ports and airports which have imports and/or exports.
  • Date range: October 2005 to June 2021.
  • Frequency of update: Quarterly.
  • Description: The dataset contains commodity information by tonnes and value and shows which countries goods have been imported from or exported to via which Australian port or airport.

Background to the Australian Bureau of Statistics customs data

Customs data is collected by the Australian Border Force and stored in the Integrated Cargo System (ICS) database.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics receives the raw data and cleans, aggregates and ensures the confidentiality of certain data before publishing aggregate monthly estimates of international merchandise trade in the International Trade in Goods and Services publication.

The International merchandise trade statistics are important statistics as measures of the nature, quantity and value of trade between Australia and the rest of the world. They are an important data source for other statistics produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, such as the balance of payments, the national accounts, and the international trade price indexes.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics also restricts release of statistics for certain commodities in order to prevent the identification of the activities of an individual business, where this is requested by the business concerned. These restrictions do not affect the total national value of exports and imports, but they can affect statistics at the country, port and commodity levels, and other details.

More information on the Australian Bureau of Statistics methodology for making edits and ensuring confidentiality can be found in publication International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods on the Data sources and compilation methods (section 4.22 to 4.27) and the Confidential Commodities List.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications receives quarterly and monthly updates of the data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics under a creative commons licence.


Limitations
  • Data is limited to goods which pass the customs frontier and for which customs declarations are required.
  • Imports under $1000 and exports under $2000 do not have to be declared and are not included in the data.
  • The visualisation shows nominal figures for value of the commodity. The historical value of the imports and exports has not been adjusted for inflation to make it directly comparable between years.
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics makes some data confidential. Further information can be found in the Confidential Commodities List. Where necessary, a ‘restriction’ is placed, at the commodity level, to suppress the level of detail available. Depending on the nature of the restriction, this may be all detail relating to the product (no commodity details), or a suppression of only some variables (e.g. selected country details).
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics changed how confidentialised import data from September 2008 and confidentialised export data from June 2013 was handled. This change means that aggregates for port, state, country, and mode of transport totals may no longer be complete and changes in confidentiality restrictions over time may affect the time series. See the International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2018 for more details.
  • While every effort is made by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data there may be some revisions in the data as more complete and accurate information becomes available. Revisions to data may occur up to six months after initial release.
  • Goods simply transported through Australia (goods in transit), and goods entering or leaving Australia on a temporary basis e.g. for repair or for exhibition, do not add to or subtract from Australia's stock of material resources and are not included in Australia's international merchandise trade. Where such goods are entered on an import or export declaration they are included in Australia's international non-merchandise trade. Examples include art exhibits, racehorses, vessels or aircraft sent overseas for repairs, machinery or equipment temporarily imported for construction and the personal belongings of passengers.
  • Import and export volumes provided on the National Freight Data Hub prototype website may differ to those published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as part of its International Merchandise Trade Statistics. The focus of the National Freight Data Hub is on the movement of goods imported and exported. Ship stores supplied to foreign vessels in Australia for consumption on the outward journey are excluded here but included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics International Merchandise Trade Statistics include fuel to be consumed by the aircraft or ship, food and consumables on board required for the journey, and dunnage.
  • For exports the ‘port of loading’, the Australian port at which the goods were loaded onto the ship or aircraft to be exported has been visualised. This provides details for individual ports and airports. The ‘state of origin’ data has not been visualised, this is the Australian state in which the final stage of production or manufacture occurs. As a result, some state and territory trade values will be under represented.
  • There are different variables for values including: free on board (FOB) value, the value of goods at the departing country; Customs Value, the price actually paid or payable; and, cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value, the value at the border of the importing country. The FOB value has been visualised for both exports and imports.

Further information on the limitations of the data can be found on the Australian Bureau of Statistics International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2018.