Preparing for stink bug season

stink bug
DATE 25.08.2020

This small bug can cause havoc to eco-systems if it hitchhikes with a vessel to Australia or New Zealand. To mitigate the risk, Höegh Autoliners has taken several measures both at land and while sailing, to ensure a Höegh vessel does not enter Australia or New Zealand with brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSBs) alive onboard.

Globalisation increases risk

With the shipping industry accounting for almost 90% of global trade, ships are a critical factor in transferring organisms from different geographical areas. The importance of biosecurity measures is therefore significant. The BMSB is not native to Oceania and when it enters its fauna, it causes severe damage to fruit and vegetable crops. While the bug is a known agricultural pest in Asia and the US, they have not yet spread to Oceania. This has been the result of strict biosecurity enforcement measures introduced by the Australian and New Zealand authorities to combat the bug in the region.

A unique risk to ocean carriers

Brendan Wallis, Area Sales Manager - Oceania explains,

The BMSB presents a unique risk to ocean carriers, as it hibernates on machinery during winter months in the Northern Hemisphere. Then, during the sea voyage, the warmer temperatures down south can cause the bug to wake up. This risks infestation of the vessel and other cargoes.

The high-risk period is therefore when it is cold in the Northern Hemisphere, from around September to April. Authorities in Australia and New Zealand have implemented strict measures for any cargo transported to these countries during stinkbug season (departing from 1 September and arriving in Australia/New Zealand by 31 May inclusive). Cargo must undergo either a heat treatment, methyl bromide fumigation or sulfuryl fluoride fumigation to ensure any BMSBs hidden in cargo is exterminated.

Commitment to compliance

Höegh Autoliners is committed to ensuring compliance with all biosecurity regulations. This means we only accept cargo certified as treated in line with the relevant regulations.

Thomas Ekhaugen, Head of Global Port Operations explains,

Any cargo ready for loading has gone through a pre-treatment process authorised by Oceanian Authorities. Cargo not presented with a valid treatment certificate for loading will not be accepted. We depend on our customers to ensure they deliver cargo that is pest-free and clean for shipping.

Cargo owners must follow the requirements set out by the Australian Department of Agriculture or New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries and work with customs agents and freight forwarders to ensure the requirements are met.

Höegh takes preventive measures

To secure that the Company, and our customers, do not suffer delays and costs, Höegh takes several measures to fight the BMSB.

Terje Lorentzen, Crewing/QA/Systems Manager says,

Our crew is doing a fantastic job onboard, searching for stink bugs while vessel is at sea. They conduct daily stink bug inspections on all cargo decks and throughout the vessel. If any bugs are detected, they can be dealt with immediately and we can ensure to clean the vessel according to rules, before it enters Oceania.

During high season, the Company also implements supplementary requirements towards customers, for cleaning cargo before loading it on vessels calling Oceania. This is in addition to authorities’ requests. For example, the company requires all used cargo, from a selection of high-risk countries, to be treated before loading it on a Höegh vessel that sails to Oceania, no matter the destination of the cargo.

Thomas states,

Ensuring the stink bugs do not reach Oceania is of critical importance. We are doing everything we can to ensure we do not allow them to make the trip from Europe, US or Asia to Oceania on board our vessels.
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