Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Alien Invasion! Japanese Pests Found Aboard US Bound Car Carriers and LNG Tanker

Ships Made to Leave Port for Treatment
Shipping News Feature
US – The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has recently intercepted several vessels, including car carriers and an LNG tanker, each with suspected traces of the destructive invasive species, the Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM), after each vessel made port calls in Japan, during the country's AGM high risk season. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the AGM is among the most damaging pests of hardwood forests and urban landscapes, defoliating over a million forested acres annually, and the CBP agriculture specialists are working hard to keep the moths from establishing in the US.

In Baltimore, CBP agriculture specialists detected three suspected AGM egg masses on the M/V Liberty Ace, on July 19. On July 23 and again on July 26, the specialists detected one suspected AGM egg mass each on the M/V Lyra Leader and the M/V Energy Innovator, respectively. CBP submitted all three interceptions to the USDA entomologist who confirmed the egg masses likely be AGM through DNA testing.

The M/V Liberty Ace and M/V Lyra Leader are vehicle carriers; the M/V Energy Innovator is a liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker. All three made port calls in Japan, a high-risk AGM area, during June 2019.

In New Orleans, CBP agriculture specialists boarded a Panamanian bulk carrier for inspection August 1, as the vessel had made several port calls in Japan. Despite AGM masses being removed from the vessel while docked in Kobe, Japan in June, CBP agriculture specialists in New Orleans discovered a total of 17 new masses during three separate inspections.

More severely, the specialists from the Houston Seaport found two dead female AGMs and 20 AGM egg masses on the superstructure of an unnamed international vessel. The CBP agriculture specialists targeted this vessel for inspection after receiving notification from Japanese inspectors about their discovery of 52 egg masses and 52 live moths on the vessel prior to its departure to the US.

CBP agriculture specialists removed the egg masses from each of the vessels and has treated the affected areas. The USDA confirmed on August 2 that the pests found on the vessel at Houston Seaport were in fact the Asian Gypsy Moth and as required by law, the vessel left the port to receive treatment and to provide verification that it was free from AGM and egg masses.

The vessel had to depart and return multiple times before CBP agriculture specialists determined that it was absolutely free from AGM egg masses. Houston Area Port Director Roderick Hudson, commented:

“CBP agriculture specialists at the Houston Seaport have discovered AGM egg masses on arriving international vessels on four separate occasions in the last month. In this instance, our work with a partner nation led us to this important and significant discovery and highlights the global threat of this pest.”

According to the USDA, AGM poses a significant threat to the nation’s forests and urban landscapes as it is known to be extremely mobile, with females able to travel up to 25 miles per day and can lay egg masses that could yield hundreds of hungry caterpillars, and is itself a voracious eater that attacks more than 500 species of trees and plants.

CBP agriculture specialists and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) inspectors have conducted training with Asian authorities to help lower AGM risks. Additionally, vessels making port calls in Asia generally implement stringent inspections to detect and remove egg masses, and foreign governments in Asia inspect and certify that vessels departing their ports are free of AGM or egg masses.

During a typical day last year, CBP agriculture specialists across the nation seized 4,552 prohibited plant, meat, animal by products, and soil, and intercepted 319 insect pests at US ports of entry.

Photo: CBP found 20 egg masses which if hatched would become voracious caterpillars.