What is the International Freight Assistance Mechanism?
The International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) is a targeted, temporary, emergency measure put in place by the Australian Government in response to COVID-19. The mechanism provides funding to help keep international freight routes and flights operating into and out of Australia.
IFAM has helped reconnect crucial global supply chains and supported the import of critical medical supplies, equipment and other goods of national importance. It also provides the opportunity, on the outbound legs, for high-value and time-sensitive perishable products to be exported to established markets. To date, IFAM support of flights has enabled over 160,000 tonnes to be exported or committed for export to 66 international destinations between April and early December.
By keeping key airfreight routes open, IFAM is providing Australian businesses disproportionately affected by COVID-19 time to adapt their business models, adjust to a new and tougher trading environment and preserve jobs.
Find out about support available for businesses.
When was IFAM established?
IFAM was established in April 2020 with $110 million in funding to help keep supply chains open. IFAM is led by Michael Byrne as the International Freight Co-ordinator General and Air Vice-Marshal Margaret Staib AM CSC as the Australian Government Freight Controller.
In October 2020, the Australian Government committed a further $317.1 million to extend IFAM until the middle of 2021. This is in addition to the $241.9 million injection announced in July 2020.
The additional funding also continues to support the re-building of domestic connections for producers and growers in regional and rural areas that rely on airfreight to get their products to customers.
Why is IFAM needed?
The necessary travel restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an initial reduction of more than 90% of passenger flights in and out of Australia (Internal Paper prepared for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, Boston Consulting Group, 2020).
This had an immediate and devastating effect on Australia’s ability to airfreight goods. As an island nation, Australia is heavily reliant on passenger flights for time-sensitive freight, with 80% of Australia’s airfreight typically carried in the bellies of passenger flights (pg.8 International Airfreight Indicator 2019, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and Oxford Economics).
Restoring global supply chains has been vital to Australia’s COVID-19 health response and maintaining relationships between Australian businesses and their existing customers around the world. Around 35,000 jobs directly and over 120,000 jobs indirectly in the agriculture, seafood, and aviation and logistics sectors are at risk if airfreight supply chains fail – many of these in regional communities (Internal Paper prepared for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, Boston Consulting Group, 2020).
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IFAM is prioritising high-value and time-sensitive perishable products on outbound flights, please register your interest.
Once you’ve registered and received acknowledgement, contact your Freight Forwarder to access any of the below options:
Airfreight costs will be more than pre-COVID airfreight rates and exporters will need to make a financial contribution towards the increased cost of their freight. The pricing in the flight schedule is inclusive of the IFAM government support but not inclusive of freight forwarders fees or additional costs.
Alternatively, there is increasing commercial freight capacity, accessible through your freight forwarder – see Commercial flight options
IFAM flight schedule outbound
On inbound flights, IFAM is prioritising medical supplies, medicines and equipment to support Australia’s health response, as well as items of national importance.
Importers can work with their freight forwarder to access freight capacity – see IFAM flight schedule inbound
If importers are having difficulty accessing freight space for urgent medical supplies please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Airfreight costs will likely be more than pre-COVID airfreight rates and inbound freight pricing is offered at market rate. The pricing in the flight schedule is not inclusive of freight forwarders fees or additional costs.
Alternatively, there is increasing commercial freight capacity, accessible through your freight forwarder– see Commercial flight options
IFAM flight schedule inbound
IFAM airfreight service providers
A network of airfreight service providers and freight forwarders supports the delivery of the IFAM as well as the provision of specialist advice.
Airlines / Airfreight service providers
- Air New Zealand Limited
- Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd
- Etihad Airways PJSC
- Federal Express Corporation
- Japan Airlines Co. Ltd
- Singapore Airlines Ltd
- QANTAS Airways Ltd
- Qatar Airways Group (Q.C.S.C.)
- United Airlines Inc.
CT Freight Pty Ltd, Schenker Australia Pty Ltd, Kuehne & Nagel Ltd , Toll Group, DHL Global Forwarding (Australia) Pty Ltd
What goods are eligible for IFAM support?
Eligibility for products supported by IFAM is determined by a set of overarching principles rather than by specific commodities. These principles determine eligibility based on Australian-made or produced products that are:
- Reliant on airfreight, for example, due to perishability or are:
- products that could not be sent by an alternative to airfreight without losing their essential product characteristics or value
- goods that have a limited shelf life or are required to meet a sudden or immediate need.
- Otherwise deemed to be in the national interest
IFAM is not limited to agriculture and seafood goods. Any products meeting the above principles may be considered for IFAM support.
Additional products now eligible under the principles framework may include medicines which have a short shelf life, are high-value and are reliant on airfreight to meet a sudden or immediate need – for example, blood products, or raw material ingredients for pharmaceuticals.
Frozen product such as frozen meat or seafood do not meet the criteria for IFAM support, as these are not time-sensitive or perishable products. Powdered milk is also out of scope.
The eligibility principles apply to all exports seeking IFAM support, including via IFAM grants.
The International Freight Coordinator General and Australian Government Freight Controller have authority to make decisions based on the principles outlined above, with guidance from the Airfreight Deputy Secretary board.
Inbound IFAM Support
On inbound flights, IFAM is prioritising medical supplies, medicines and equipment to support Australia’s health response, as well as items deemed in the national interest.
For example, on inbound flights IFAM has supported:
- Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
- Pharmaceuticals and consumables
- Medical equipment and consumables
- Inputs to health industries
- Imported components essential to the operation of key infrastructure assets, non-medical personal protective equipment and agricultural chemicals.
What support is available for regional and remote locations?
IFAM is committed to supporting regional Australia. There are international IFAM supported freight flights departing from regional locations across Australia, as well as IFAM supported domestic flights connecting to international IFAM supported freight flights – see IFAM flight schedule outbound for details.
In addition, a commercial domestic service is operational, including Qantas and Virgin Australia, Australia Post and Toll. They are operating a minimum domestic network, servicing the most critical metropolitan and regional routes in Australia.
What is grant assistance?
If the scheduled IFAM supported flights do not meet an exporter’s needs, the exporter may discuss their options with their freight forwarder and consider applying for grant assistance through IFAM. Freight forwarders can apply for grant assistance on behalf of the exporter.
Submit an application via SmartyGrants
Information on using SmartyGrants can be found in the How to Guide.
- Exporters' products must be high-value, time-sensitive and reliant on airfreight (highly-perishable) to be considered
- IFAM cannot provide grant assistance on scheduled IFAM flights (see IFAM flight schedule outbound)
- Exporters and freight forwarders are expected to firstly consider the scheduled IFAM supported flights
- Larger loads of high-value, time-sensitive and perishable freight, or applications for support over multiple flights or weeks, are more likely to be supported
More information on the grants process is available by downloading the IFAM Grant Guidelines.
What other flight options are available?
In addition to IFAM supported flights, there is increasing commercial freight capacity, accessible through your freight forwarder – see Commercial flight options for further details.
Qantas and Virgin Australia are also making airfreight capacity available on repatriation international passenger services to key destinations. Contact your freight forwarder, or for more information contact:
To reduce the risk of goods being held up at international ports, please include all relevant physical export documents, including government-issued phytosanitary and health certificates, with your consignment.
Disruptions to air and courier services due to the COVID-19 crisis are delaying the delivery of airmail. Including your export documents with your consignment will avoid delays between the arrival of goods in overseas markets and the arrival of documents sent via airmail.
This will help ensure your goods are processed and unloaded in a timely manner.
IFAM fact sheet
The IFAM fact sheet provides further information and answers to commonly asked questions.
The IFAM grant application process has moved to an online system called SmartyGrants – submit an application.
Information on using SmartyGrants can be found in the How to Guide.
Information on the grants process is available by downloading the IFAM Grant Guidelines.
Commercial flight options
There is increasing commercial freight capacity, accessible through your freight forwarder:
Commercial flight options
COVID-19: Support of Australian businesses
We are working hard to help Australian businesses, big and small, overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19. For additional government support visit business.gov.au
For market insights and latest updates visit Austrade’s COVID-19 page.
Critical trade updates: information for exporters
The Australian Government is aware of reports from Australian exporters experiencing issues with some goods entering Chinese ports.
For more information and support visit Austrade’s critical trade updates page.