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Taking care of business in Australia

Jan 15, 2019
AIMA (Australia International Moving Association) has recently launched a new website https://www.aima.com.au. Having taken a look at it, and being suitable impressed, Steve Jordan spoke to Philip Gordon, the organisation’s chairman, to find out more.

Taking care of business in Australia: Australia International Moving Association

I really was impressed with the AIMA website.  It’s easy to understand, easy to navigate, describes exactly what AIMA does and has a really good news page that give useful information to customers and industry partners alike.   Philip Gordon, from Conroy Removals in Australia, has been the organisation’s chairman for the last two years.  He explained that AIMA was started in 1975 and, despite only having 18 members, it is a very active group that provides a range of benefits at least equal to many much larger, older organisations worldwide.

Until recently, Philip was also the president of AFRA (Australian Furniture Removers Association).  AFRA has around 220 members and focusses on the domestic market.  It is heavily involved in training, compliance, health and safety and has recently developed a Chain of Responsibility (COR) that is an online management tool prescribing who is responsible to whom in an organisation: very handy when something goes wrong. AFRA also conducts regular audits of companies with the aim of improving the standard of moving in Australia.

“The membership criteria for AFRA are not too onerous,” said Philip.  “You have to work to the AFRA terms and conditions or, if not, to ones that are at least as favourable to the client. You must do proper training, pay appropriate wages and have proper facilities and equipment to carry out moving and storage in a manner that fits the size of your company. You can be a smaller company and still be a member of AFRA.  Some of our smaller members are very high-quality movers.” 

To be a member of AIMA you must already be a member of FIDI Australia or have been a member of AFRA for two years and be able to produce two years of audited accounts to prove that your company is of sound financial standing. Gordon explained that AIMA is a limited company, not an association. “This is because one of AIMA’s many functions is to manage the Volume Incentive Discounts (VID) from shipping lines. It’s not allowed for associations to handle the amount of money involved.” 

AIMA handles around AU$4 million every year in VID from shipping lines.  The company is bonded as an NVOCC (Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier) with the FMC (Federal Maritime Commission) and negotiates shipping rates on four routes – Europe, trans-Tasman, USA and Rest of the World. Philip said that it isn’t compulsory for AIMA members to use the lines chosen but, in practice, it works out that way.  “If we don’t support them, we won’t get much cooperation next time,” he said. “Now that the power is going back into the hands of the shipping lines, with consolidations, we do need to stick together.  In real terms I would say there is nearly 100% support right through from the big boys such as Allied, to the single depot operators.  Everyone pays the same rate.  We are all better off together.”

Philip said that the operation of the VID is very smooth and simple.  Each member reports its tonnage and gets a spreadsheet every month showing the shipments. AIMA invoices the lines for the agreed level of VID every month and pays it to the members every six months. “The members don’t have to do much,” he said.

AIMA's recently launched websiteThere are other benefits for AIMA members.  The company provides terms and conditions for international work and has been able to purchase FIDI training on a group basis and pass on the savings to its members.  AIMA also stands up for its members when it needs to, most recently, for example, with respect to GDPR.  FIDI insisted that FIDI Australia members would be audited to GDPR regulations until AIMA pointed out that they are bound by Australian data protection laws, not European ones.

AIMA also has an Industry Liaison Committee. This works with the customs and quarantine authorities in Australia to provide information to members.  The company has also been proactive in lobbying customs to develop an electronic import form for personal effects.  One current area that’s receiving attention, for example, is the battle against the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.  Philip said that Australia has 17 native stink bugs all of which look similar to the current ‘public enemy’.  “Our native stink bugs only eat citrus plants,” he explained, “but this new one eats anything that has juice and can quickly wipe out whole crops. The money that the quarantine department is spending on this is phenomenal.  We really don’t want it in Australia.”

Another area of concern, one particularly important for shippers of goods to Australia, is the problem of asbestos, especially in cars.  Some older cars contain a lot of asbestos in break linings, gaskets, seating and even in the paint itself.  Cars that have been refurbished can still contain the material and the authorities insist that it is all removed before the car can be imported.  “It’s a good idea to warn customers if they are importing this type of vehicle,” said Philip.  “If they get caught, they will always want to blame someone and it will probably be the moving company.”

Of course, being chairman of AIMA is not Philip’s day job and most of the work at the organisation is done by willing, hard-working volunteers.  “There are a lot of people who have put in a lot of hard work into AIMA over many years,” he said.  “I thank them for all they have done and congratulate them on their achievement.”

Photos: Top: Philip Gordon, AIMA Chairman; middle: AIMA's recently launched website

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