The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has implemented widespread emergency measures on imported containers from U.S., Italy, Germany, France and other countries, via chemical fumigation or other approved treatment methods, to combat the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).
While essential in safeguarding Australia from a major biosecurity threat, international trade has been adversely impacted by the BMSB measures with major importers reporting significant disruptions to their international supply chain operations, as well as increased costs of importing essential consumer goods.
In extreme instances, total cargo vessels and their loads are being turned away from Australian shores due to detection of the pest. Australia’s peak trade alliance has indicated that millions of dollars are being paid by importers, customs brokers and freight forwarders as a result of the processes associated with the management of the BMSB.
Paul Zalai, director of the Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) stated that for those that have been fortunate to have their cargo arrive, many have been adversely affected by the onshore delays caused by inadequate offshore treatment, failure in government systems and processes and a local industry inadequately prepared to deal with the growing onshore treatment task “The direct costs to importers imposed by stevedores for storage and in detention fees imposed by shipping lines for the late return of unpacked empty containers are rapidly escalating, adding to the costs associated with failure to meet supply demands.”
Some freight forwarders have resorted to desperate and expensive measures by using a combination of sea cargo movements from origin and transhipping cargo at intermediary ports, using airfreight to land goods into Australia. While a legitimate practice, it is anticipated that it will only be a matter of time before cargo arriving by air faces similar biosecurity scrutiny as that by sea with the potential threat of choking major Australian international airports.
“The problem is not going to go away. Indications from the department is that by next season (September to April) we will be talking about treatment of goods from high risk continents rather than high risk countries, such is the spread of the pest throughout Europe, Asia and other parts of the world” Zalai said
The FTA has acknowledged that the associated treatments, processes and systems are extremely complex and there is no simple fix to address current operational deficiencies. FTA has called on the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources to urgently commission a comprehensive independent review.