Overseas ship

An overseas ship is one that is currently making, or about to make, an international voyage. Ships undertaking international voyages include cargo ships, passenger ships and a range of other ships that undertake maritime work.

An overseas ship may be:

  • an international (foreign) ship owned by a non-resident shipping operator that may or may not perform domestic voyages
  • a resident-owned ship that travels directly overseas or via another Australian port which is incidental to that voyage.

The residency of the shipping operation is relevant to who has GST obligations and who is entitled to fuel tax credits or input tax credits.

Overseas ships on international voyages

An international voyage is a voyage, whether direct or indirect, between a place in Australia and a place outside Australia. A 'place outside Australia' does not include:

  • any area of waters outside Australia
  • installations outside Australia
  • a ship outside Australia
  • a reef or uninhabited island outside Australia
  • waters and installations in the Joint Petroleum Development Area.

When determining if a ship has undertaken a voyage to a place outside Australia and as a result duty is not payable on the bunker fuel, ‘Australia’ means the Commonwealth of Australia excluding all external territories.

If a ship travels from an Australian port to a place that is not a 'place outside Australia' before returning to Australia, it has not undertaken an international voyage. As a result, duty is payable on the bunker fuel consumed during this voyage.

An overseas ship is making a continuing international voyage when it loads or unloads international cargo in an Australian port on arrival from overseas and is in transit to an overseas destination. This also includes legs travelled between Australian ports where international cargo is loaded or unloaded.

A ship may travel from an Australian port to a foreign port via other Australian ports and still be on an international voyage. However, carrying domestic cargo during that voyage can alter that status and you may need to pay duty on the bunker fuel consumed during this part of the voyage.

Overseas ships and domestic cargo

Any domestic cargo loaded or unloaded at an Australian port while the ship is on an international voyage is incidental to the international status of the voyage.

However, transporting domestic cargo (passengers or goods) between domestic ports can create a disconnection from the international classification of a voyage if the sole purpose of the trip is to load or unload that domestic cargo. Therefore, you may need to pay excise duty, customs duty or GST.

Ships that conduct survey, construction, oil and gas exploration operations, and similar activities in Australia may interrupt a continuing international voyage and may also have to pay excise duty, customs duty or GST.

    Last modified: 02 Jun 2015QC 22910