Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has advised the Customs Brokers’ and Forwarders’ Council of Australia (CBFCA) to be on the lookout for so-called counterfeit containers.

Also known as a fake, cloned or re-birthed container, a counterfeit container is one that has had its unique identifier erased from its exterior and replaced with that of another legitimate container.

According to the DIBP, a counterfeit container can be used as a substitute for a copied container to “facilitate a range of border-related offences”.

In a membership update, the CBFCA recounted a recent instance whereby an importer unpacking containers found them filled with cheap brick pavers instead of the goods ordered.

“The whole containers were substituted and counterfeited,” it stated.

“We were told that this particular incident was a very primitive attempt as the containers in question were very old and in poor condition. So the possibility for a more widespread sophisticated operation cannot be underestimated.”

The DIBP advises the following indicators could define a counterfeit container situation:

  • repainted display numbers
  • alterations to corner castings
  • display numbers not matching plate or casting number
  • evidence of grinding of the corner casting
  • original numbers partially hidden or showing through
  • container safety plate or manufacturer’s plate damaged, altered or replaced
  • any evidence of an attempt to replace serial numbers
  • incorrect placement of container number

It is understood that counterfeit containers have not yet presented as an issue in New Zealand.


Formal notice has been given to major shipping lines that members of the National Road Carriers (NRC) will “not accept any charges for detention on empty containers” in Auckland.

In a letter issued to carriers on Friday January 13, NRC chief executive David Aitken stated the shipping industry had created a situation in the city “where it is not possible to economically and safely return empty containers in a timely manner”.

“Our members are not able return containers and will be forced to leave them at client’s premises or store them elsewhere,” he stated.

“They will recover these costs from their clients, who may in turn seek recompense from your companies.

“The matter of container control is one that your respective companies take responsibility for and it must have been known that this situation would occur.”

Subsequently, NRC port committee chairperson Chris Carr stated that empty container depots were “full to the brim and then more”.

“Shipping lines have known about this building issue and have in fact allowed it to happen,” he added.

“Containers would normally be evacuated from New Zealand, but this has not occurred through increasing export loadings, which is good for New Zealand and bad for transport operators having to deal with the mess.”