Container inspections stepped up

New Zealand Government Media Release

Hon Marian Hobbs
Minister for Biosecurity

10 April 2000

Containers and their cargo from known "high risk" countries will be subjected to an increased level of inspection following the unprecedented discovery of three snakes in recent weeks, the Minister for Biosecurity, Marian Hobbs, said today.

She said the Group Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Biosecurity Authority, Barry O'Neil, has also ordered Quarantine Service detector dogs to be used routinely at container terminals to improve the prospects of snake detection at the border

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry was already conducting a comprehensive review of the risks posed by container "hitch-hikers", the Minister said.

A review of import health standards for shipping containers is underway. Import health standards specify the requirements needed to manage effectively the risks associated with imported goods before they enter New Zealand.

As part of the review, the MAF will:

  • Measure the efficacy of current container inspection procedures.
  • Investigate the use of X-ray technologies and detector dogs for container inspection.
  • Further refine profiles of high risk containers to target inspections.
  • Identify high risk locations of container cargo delivery that may warrant active ongoing surveillance.
  • Consult with the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) to ensure support and compliance with the health standards.

Marian Hobbs said that as well as the review, MAF is writing to all shipping companies to request information on how they verify the accuracy of current container certificates that attest containers are clean and free from residues of previous cargo.

Containers arriving in New Zealand and shipping lines that have a record of frequent erroneous certification, will be identified and better targeted for inspection.

Information on the risks and implications of exotic pests being introduced to New Zealand via shipping containers will be developed for distribution to importers, shipping companies and other parties involved in container shipping.

Information will also be prepared advising people who open containers what to do if they find pests.

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