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Sea container hygiene to ease biosecurity interventions

Sea container hygiene system to ease biosecurity interventions

Of every 100 containers sent from Fiji to Australia, at least seven are found to have high levels of soil contamination. As a result, all containers from Fiji are required to undergo stringent inspection upon arrival at Australian ports to prevent any possible transfer of pests into the country.

But this can be expected to change for the better come April this year with the formal recognition of the Sea Container Hygiene System (SCHS), a system designed to ensure sea containers arriving into Australia and New Zealand are free from pests.

At an Exporters Symposium jointly organised by Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program, Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) congratulated Fiji for adopting the SCHS.

DAWR’s Acting Director Cargo and Mail Section, Compliance Control Branch, Rama Karri, confirmed that formal recognition of the SCHS would commence on 1 April 2018. Responding to queries raised at the symposium, he clarified that Fiji was placed on Australia’s Country Action List because of high levels of soil contamination on containers and not because of the Giant African Snail.

He said every year, Australia received 2.5 million container imports from over 200 ports. In terms of biosecurity risk material (BRM) detection on the containers, Karri said soil contamination represented 74 per cent of the breakdown of BRM. Having the SCHS in place, he said, meant better management of biosecurity risks associated with sea containers at the port of loading.

“If the risks are managed here, there’ll be no need for additional control abroad. Risks managed offshore provide the highest level of protection for Australia,” he said.

Karri said that on average, it cost about $AUD200-300 for a container to be inspected and that with the introduction of the SCHS, savings for the industry was valued at approximately $AUD6-9million per year as a result of reduced onshore inspection, cleaning and storage costs.

He said Fiji would not require intervention or inspection on up to 95 per cent of containers subject to continued compliance.

Karri said although Fiji was on Australia’s Country Action List, the list would be reviewed and the results announced through normal channels including the World Trade Organisation.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries Fresh Produce Imports Pacific Market Access Senior Advisor Nacanieli Waqa said prior to 2006, out of 80 per cent of container problems experienced in New Zealand, 40 per cent involved the Pacific. He said this has since improved with the introduction of the SCHS.

“We are now pushing back compliance and are getting the shipping agents to drive compliance. We can save a lot and this is the buy-in factor into the SCHS,” he said.

He said assessments of compliance levels were made every three months and a company’s rate of interventions or inspections was adjusted in accordance to the assessment findings. “If they’ve been compliant, the minimum inspection rate is 5 per cent. But when they become non-compliant, we resume the 100 per cent intervention. The SCHS is dictated by compliance,” he said.

PHAMA has been working to promote a coordinated use of the SCHS by exporting companies in Fiji. This is in line with the program’s priority to maintain and improve existing market access by developing the capacity of the public and private sectors to meet international market requirements.

A second Exporters Symposium will be held in Nadi on 2 March 2018.


*The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program is an Australian Government initiative, co-funded by the New Zealand Government. PHAMA is designed to help Pacific island countries better manage and utilise opportunities to export primary products including fish and forestry products. Australia and New Zealand are markets of major importance, along with export markets beyond the Pacific. The core countries assisted through PHAMA are Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. PHAMA is implemented on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand Governments by AECOM in association with Kalang.

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