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Wednesday 26 February 2003
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) today announced it will issue
a public discussion document on the sea container pathway review and a draft
revised biosecurity standard for importing sea containers for public comment in
The release of a revised standard - known as an import health standard - is
being made as a result of a major review of current methods of providing
biosecurity clearance for sea containers. The review included a major survey of
sea containers arriving in New Zealand during 2001-2002.
"The amount of operational data analysed from the 11,000 containers we
surveyed for this review was unprecedented internationally," said Neil
Hyde, director of MAF Biosecurity's Border Management group.
Sea containers have long been identified and managed as a problem pathway for
hitchhiker pests by MAF. A report by the Officer of the Auditor-General last
year noted 100% inspection of the pathway is not practical.
The new review found that an average of one in five containers is likely to
arrive with some form of internal contamination and that most contamination is
found inside, rather than outside, containers. Approximately one out of every
four containers arriving in New Zealand is currently inspected from the door by
MAF Quarantine Service officers. Most containers are certified as being free of
"The closer we looked at the data from the cross-section of containers
we surveyed, the more apparent it became that we need to broaden existing
systems, encourage higher levels of compliance in consultation with the shipping
industry and importers and continue to promote greater biosecurity
"MAF relies heavily on declarations and certificates about the contents
of a container, use of acceptable packing material and its internal
cleanliness," said Mr Hyde.
"These are all important requirements for a successful system. However
as part of this review we have confirmed thousands of containers arrive with
live organisms inside and with unmanifested wood packing material that requires
treatment or destruction each year. Both are extremely difficult to pick up by a
door inspection alone."
"Based on the new data we can also estimate that 1-2 percent of the
annual total of 260,000 loaded containers arrive with cargo risk items that
aren't adequately described on the container manifest. This might seem like a
small figure but it undermines MAF's ability to carry out targeted inspections
and it could be solved by increased compliance".
"Overall our conclusion is that we need to integrate biosecurity risk
management into the entire sea container pathway, starting before a container
even arrives in New Zealand and continuing until it leaves the country,"
said Mr Hyde.
"It is clear there isn't a 'one stop' solution to the pest pathway posed
by containers and their contents so we are proposing a range of measures
applicable at various stages in the pathway. This strategy is dependent on
effective participation by industry so that we link our systems together."
Risk reduction measures put forward for further work over the next 6-18
The review notes that some measures will involve additional costs for
monitoring, enforcement and auditing. Other factors considered include legality,
commercial impact, social and environmental implications, practicality and
Using the proposed risk mitigation strategy, it is expected that the
biosecurity risks posed by the container pathway will be significantly reduced.
Reducing risk offshore, before the containers arrive in New Zealand, is a key
component of the strategy.
"The challenge will be to involve everybody so that the task of
protecting New Zealand from exotic pests and diseases is seen as a 'shared
responsibility'," said Mr Hyde.
For further information contact:
Neil Hyde Director, Border Management Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Tel: (09) 368 5143 or (021) 888 331