Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shipping and Forwarding Groups Warned to Watch Out For Flying Aliens

US and Canadian Shores Threatened by Beast from the East
Shipping News Feature

NORTH AMERICA – ASIA - WORLDWIDE – The entire shipping industry is persistently haunted by the spectre of transferring alien plagues, flora and fauna to new environments where they will flourish and have the potential to devastate the native species and habitats. We have occasionally featured specific instances of serious contamination and with legislation such as the latest MARPOL regulations and other International Maritime Organization (IMO) incentives much is being done to minimise the risk of infection but there is no substitute for vigilance and of late there have been a series of warnings which all sectors of the logistics industry, from freight forwarders to container lines and other shipping interests, should be made aware of.

Recently, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have issued a notice to update the industry on the increasing spread of the Asian Gypsy Moth throughout the Far East and is enforcing certification to verify that ocean vessels entering Canadian ports are free of the creatures and their offspring. This notice comes after a federal inspector at the Port of Portland found two egg masses on the underside of a vessel’s air vents and the Port of Vancouver found a further egg mass which experts suspect to be Asian Gypsy Moths.

Moths of this type can be carried on the superstructure of ships and cargo and moth populations are prevalent in some seaport areas in Far East Russia, Japan, Korea, and Northern China. The moths are a serious threat to forests and urban landscapes, known to attack more than 500 species of trees and other plants. The adult females of the species, swarm toward light and lay their eggs on the exposed surfaces of brightly-lit ships. Each egg mass, though only a few inches long, can contain up to 1,000 eggs which will then hatch into tiny but voracious caterpillars, and produce silken threads which they then use to glide to shore in a process known as ‘ballooning’.

In 2012, United States and Canadian authorities intercepted a large number of vessels with Asian Gypsy Moth egg masses on the superstructures of ships and hidden in their cargoes. Many vessels arriving in North America with Asian Gypsy Moth life stages present resulted in those vessels being ordered into international waters to mitigate risk of introduction. For this reason, both authorities have announced that all vessels arriving in Western Canadian ports from March 1 to September 15, 2013, and in Eastern Canadian ports, including inland ports, from March 15 to September 15, 2013, and which have visited ports during specified periods of risk for Asian Gypsy Moth in 2012 or 2013, must provide a 96-hour advance notice of arrival, a list of previous ports of call over the last two years and a valid Phytosanitary Certificate or other approved certificate issued by an authority recognised by the CFIA.

Also in 2012, it was reported that high numbers of the adult moths were flying in some Asian port areas at the time of pre-departure inspections. Inspection certificates indicated large numbers of egg masses had been removed prior to shipment and yet some vessel crews reported removing hundreds of egg masses post-certification. Upon arrival in North America, there were also detections on vessels that had obtained pre-departure certification and in some cases certificates were found to have been issued many days prior to the ships departure date from an area regulated for Asian Gypsy Moths, clearly allowing for an opportunity for re-infestation.

Shipping companies are warned that it is essential that inspection and certification be conducted as close to time of departure as feasible. It is also of vital importance that a ship’s crew ensures freedom from the moths by conducting inspection of the ship superstructure while en route to North America and removing and destroying all life stages detected. Failure to follow these procedures can result in port of entry refusal causing costs and delays. In a joint statement, both North American authorities said:

“The shipping industry has markedly enhanced awareness of necessary quarantine compliance for Asian Gypsy Moth. This has been vital to maintaining shipping schedules. Both countries are committed to working with industry partners to support measures that will reduce Asian Gypsy Moth risk at origin. US and Canadian officials seek increased collaboration with shipping lines, agents, and associations in order to mitigate the risk of introduction of Asian Gypsy Moths while minimising impacts on trade. The risk for introduction of Asian Gypsy Moths into North America from Far East Russia, Japan, Korea, and Northern China is considered to be high for 2013. We strongly urge maritime interests to take all possible precautions.”

To see more examples of this type of problem type alien into the News Search box at the top of any page.

 Photo: The Asian Gypsy Moth.