Australia signs up to sea container hygiene system

Australia has signed up to a New Zealand-initiated clean container system recognised internationally as representing best practice in biosecurity risk management. 

Officials from MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) and the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Biosecurity Services Group this week signed an Operating Agreement with the China Navigation Company (Swire Shipping) to jointly operate the Sea Container Hygiene Systems (SCHS). Initiated in New Zealand in 2006 the system, which previously covered containers exported to New Zealand from Samoa, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands, will now include containers exported to New Zealand and Australia from PNG and the Solomon Islands.

The Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) recently accepted the system which involves containers at key PNG and Solomon Island ports being thoroughly cleaned, chemically treated and stored, before being shipped to Australia or New Zealand. Pest populations at the Ports’ processing and storage areas are also controlled. Once in New Zealand, MAFBNZ co-ordinates the national inspection of the containers.

“MAFBNZ, and now AQIS, also assist with set-up and stakeholder liaison in PNG and the Solomon Islands, maintain audits to ensure suppression of pest populations, and confirm cleaned containers as free of contamination,” MAFBNZ Team Manager Operational Standards, Paul Hallett, says.

The system reflects a recent MAFBNZ move to work with industry to manage biosecurity risk and keep it offshore, while minimising unnecessary impact on trade and travel. MAFBNZ had seen dramatic reductions in contaminated containers arriving here since the system began, and with many containers entering Australia currently subject to 100 percent inspection, the agreement reflects both AQIS confidence in the system and recognition of its benefits to Governments, industry and local communities, Mr Hallett said. 

“The SCHS gives Australia and New Zealand greater assurance that biosecurity risks are being managed offshore and better facilitation of trade, while industry sees faster container turnaround through ports and increased container availability, and PNG and the Solomons gain job opportunities,” Mr Hallett said.

A history of consistently clean containers enabled MAFBNZ to progressively reduce container inspections, saving shippers money and providing participating companies with an incentive to make the system work. Other long-term benefits a reduction in the number of fumigations and New Zealand-based container washes, he said.

For more information and photographs of the signing of the agreement contact:
Helen Corrigan | Senior Adviser MAFBNZ | Helen.corrigan@maf.govt.nz | 029-894 0687

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