Carriers, terminal operators, customers, truckers: Everyone in the supply chain has a role to play in protecting the world against invasive species. Emerging threats posed by infectious diseases could have dramatic implications not just on the global logistics industry, but on the broader economy.

An industry focus on invasive species 

There are environmental, economic and social risks when an unfamiliar specie is introduced to a new region. With the world globalising faster than ever before, such introductions are increasing and the spread of organisms across borders is incurring huge costs for prevention, control and remediation.

Biosecurity is an increasingly important consideration in global shipping.

As the shipping industry accounts for almost 90% of global trade, ships are a critical element of the transfer of organisms between geographic regions and so shipping companies and their customers must pay close attention. 

For more articles from Wallenius Wilhelmsen:  Subscribe to our newsletter

Cargo that can carry an exotic pest or disease is a potential biosecurity concern. Customers are responsible for ensuring their own cargo is clean and pest-free before loading it on a vessel. Risk factors include animals and their waste, insects, eggs, plant material, seeds, soil, water, and both wooden and unprocessed natural packing materials.

Stink bugsA very real threat for Oceania 

Brown marmorated stink bugs are the cause of strict seasonal shipping regulations for imports to Oceania. The stink bug eats apples, kiwifruit, corn, tomatoes, cherries, wheat, and maize, and while the bug is a known agricultural pest in the US and Asia, they have not yet spread to Oceania thanks to strict governmental rules in the region.

A recent report claimed that if the bug enters New Zealand, it could have an economic impact of up to $4.2 billion.

Read more: Battling the bug

Recently, a ship carrying cars found to be harbouring stink bugs was refused entry to Auckland, New Zealand. Due to the high numbers found, no port in New Zealand had the capacity to treat the ship’s cargo. Global media reports claimed car dealerships were running low on stock because of the delays.

Strict requirements for Oceania-bound cargo 

This denial of entry was the result of emergency measures introduced by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in New Zealand. Both the MPI and the Department of Agriculture in Australia also have seasonal restrictions in place regarding cargo from specific countries. 

As the BMSB continues to spread, like in Europe, there is a high risk that several additional countries will be impacted for the next season starting from 1 September 2018. Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce has said the intent of the recent Biosecurity Act 2015 is to ensure that Australia’s biosecurity regime is “modern, flexible and responsive”. 

Check the latest regulations
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in New Zealand
Department of Agriculture in Australia

New cargo treatment facilities 

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean (WW Ocean) has been quick to respond to the regulation changes, by implementing processes, keeping customers informed, and developing cargo treatment capabilities on behalf of their customers.

A cargo treatment facility was opened in 2015 at the Port of Baltimore, from where significant volume of cargo is sent to Australia and New Zealand.

A new treatment facility is planned in Zebrugge to treat export cargo bound for Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian government has recognized WW Ocean’s efforts to stop the stink bugs from entering the region. In 2016, Joyce presented the company with the Australian Biosecurity Award.

Read more: Australian government gives Biosecurity Award to WW Ocean

Counting the cost worldwide 

Biosecurity isn’t just an issue for Oceania. Invasive species cost the United States more than US $120bn in damages every year. Non-native species borne in the ballast or hulls of ships cost the Great Lakes Region alone around US $200 million every year to control. The government spends around US $100 million every year on prevention, detection, rapid response, research and other pest control measures.

asian gypsy mothThe Asian Gypsy Moth is a cause for concern in the USA, Canada and Oceania, where it is a potential threat to agricultural and forest resources. Heightened checks take place in many ports during the “high season” for the pests, which are native only to the Asia-Pacific region.

A multi-disciplinary approach involving academia, governments, research scientists, and the shipping industry is needed to tackle the issue. Each country and region of the world has different requirements for treatment and condition of cargo, and it is everyone’s responsibility to keep updated on rules and requirements.