What is Asian Gypsy Moth
The Asian Gypsy Moth is an exotic plant-eating pest not native to Australia. A highly destructive species known to feed on more than 500 different species of tree, this pest is considered a major threat to Australia’s forestry industry.
The larvae of Asian Gypsy Moth are known to consume whole leaves, and given that the typical Gypsy Moth lays about 50-1000 eggs at a time, major outbreaks risk defoliating entire sections of forest in very short amount of time.
How does this affect shipowners?
Vessels visiting Australia that have previously visited an overseas port with a high native AGM risk (typically Russia and the Far East) will be under increased scrutiny from local authorities. AGM is typically found on forestry products loaded in Russian and Far East ports, and may survive whole trips and lay eggs whilst aboard the vessel.
In Australia, AGM is monitored by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, also known as ‘DAWR’. DAWR requests that vessels whom have visited high risk ports submit information to authorities in order to determine whether that vessel needs to undertake a focused AGM inspection on arrival into Australia.
What information is required to be submitted?
Any relevant vessel that is a biosecurity risk will be required to submit an AGM questionnaire to DAWR on arrival. This is usually done by the ships local agents via the Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS) as part of the usual pre-arrival process.
DAWR typically make a port-by-port/vessel-by-vessel assessment of AGM risk factor, so it is important that all vessels have documentation in check when doing the pre-arrival checks.
What if I have a phyto-sanitary certificate?
As mentioned above, DAWR undertake subjective, vessel-by-vessel checks and as such, they do not necessarily recognise AGM freedom certificates issued by any other country of third-party assessor.
This being said, should a suitable phyto-sanitary certificate have been issued by an agricultural authority in the United States, Canada, Russia, New Zealand or Australia since the last visit to a Russian or Far-East port then this is usually taken into account as a part of the risk assessment.
What happens if the vessel needs an inspection?
All steps should be taken to minimise AGM risk and avoid needing an inspection. If DAWR determine that the vessel requires an inspection, the vessel will be ordered to anchorage and DAWR will usually send a number of officers to the anchorage, all at ship costs and they will undertake the inspection in their own time frame with little consideration towards ships schedules. Vessels should anticipate delays of up to a week.
If an outbreak is particularly severe, the vessel could be ordered to leave Australia and may even receive a permanent ban on returning.
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