Everyone at Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean (WW Ocean) is well aware of the risks of spreading invasive species with cargo on our vessels. Quality & Biosecurity Co-ordinator Niklas Blomqvist took some time to answer some of your frequently asked questions on biosecurity.

What is being done to prevent the spread of invasive species?

Since late 2014, the highest biosecurity focus has been on the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) and the risk of it being introduced to Oceania from US cargo. The pre-treatment requirements introduced by Australia and New Zealand in 2015 were substantially stricter than our clean cargo requirements. At our main US terminals, Baltimore and Savannah, we developed a large-scale treatment facility to handle the pre-treatment of Oceania-bound cargo. 

Learn more: On the inside of our cargo treatment facility

Authorities in Australia and New Zealand have required pre-treatment of Oceania-bound cargo from Italy since September 2017. From 1 September 2018, more European countries are impacted by the pre-treatment requirements, so we are building a heat treatment facility in Zeebrugge with a planned capacity of about 360 car equivalent units per day. In other locations, we seek to team up with local treatment providers so our customers have the chance to treat cargo when needed.

What areas are at risk of invasion by invasive species? 

The highest focus has been on preventing the spread of BMSB to Oceania. 

Australia and especially New Zealand are dependent on their horticultural industries. If the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is introduced, the financial losses for the regional economy could be severe.

But we have several other cases involving the Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) and EU cargo found infested by unwanted snails and insects upon arrival in the US.

What should customers expect during stink bug season?

Pre-treating large amounts of cargo is a complex task. Customers should provide high accuracy in their shipping forecasts and deliver their cargo ahead of shipping date. Delivery cut-offs will be significantly longer in order to stage and treat cargo within stipulated time windows. Unfortunately, customers should expect an additional cost for extra handling as well as the actual treatment cost. 

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Upon arrival in Oceania there is an increased risk for vessel delays due to increased cargo surveys and the possible fogging of cargo holds before a berth is made available. We have seen delays of up to one week when contaminated units found on other carrier’s vessels have been brought ashore one by one for treatment.

How do you handle cross-contamination?

Cross-contamination is an issue that we need to consider. We will survey all cargo from risk areas intended to be loaded on our Oceania-bound vessels to minimize this risk.

If a unit is found to be contaminated, it will be sent for treatment on our customers behalf.

To the best of our efforts we will segregate cargo upon arrival in terminals, but this is a complex task onboard a vessel. Gas-tight compartments and separate decks will be used wherever possible, along with risk assessment of the cargo based on survey findings and experience in the ports.

What actions should customers take?

While we help where we can, it is ultimately the responsibility of the shipper to make sure that cargo complies with the requirements in the country of discharge.

Learn more: Battling invasive species

It’s important to keep close contact with importers in Oceania and follow the development on the websites of the authorities in Australia and New Zealand. It’s also important to examine your supply chain for potential contamination risk points.

How do you co-operate with authorities?

The biosecurity requirements tend to alter from year to year and are dependent on the evaluations done by affected authorities and industry representatives after the end of each season.

WW Ocean takes part in evaluation processes by submitting comments and suggesting improvements.

Both Australia and New Zeeland use a consultation process. Affected industrial sectors and individuals have the right to comment on suggested legislation prior to it being released, which tends to delay the decision-making process. Unfortunately, this means that seasonal requirements are often released very close to the enforcement date. 

What regulatory changes would improve the situation? 

Aligned requirements between Australia and New Zealand is something WW Ocean has had high up the agenda for several years. We believe that both countries have the same goal, so it should be possible to develop a common set of requirements.