A serious biosecurity risk has forced Mitsui Osk Line (MOL) cargo ship, the Courageous Ace, to reload its car shipment and head back out to sea.
A brown marmorated stink bug
The ship is now drifting off Auckland’s coast as the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and MOL work together to clear the ship and its cargo of the bugs which could decimate New Zealand’s crops if the insect was to enter the country.
MOL spokesman Yaro Nikitin says in an email to customers that live Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSBs) were discovered on board the vessel on February 6.
“It is with deepest regret and apologies that we would like to advise you of the following circumstances surrounding the Courageous Ace V.121A,” Nikitin says.
“MPI suspended operations and issued a direction to treat the vessel’s cargo holds with fogging agent,” he says.
The vessel was treated as per the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) direction the following day but an MPI inspection on February 8 “revealed a significantly large quantity of alive BMSBs”.
“Due to the biosecurity risk that the vessel poses to the New Zealand economy, MPI have directed us to re-load all import cargo onto the vessel and undertake treatment offshore, Nikitin says.
An MOL spokesman spoken to by Autofile says MOL and MPI are looking into further options to ensure the bugs are fumigated before the ship can return to the Ports of Auckland. However, he wouldn’t say what the options were but that it didn’t include the ship returning to its port of origin.
MPI says stink bugs are hard to see, hard to kill, travel far and they breed fast. The bugs feed heavily on a wide variety of plant species and would attack grapes, kiwifruit, apples, citrus and stone fruit, corn and many other valuable crops. Adults are about the size of a $1 coin with white banding on the antennae, alternate black and white markings on the abdomen, its eggs are light green, barrel shaped, and found in clusters of 20-30.
MPI have advised that although the BMSB is found in China, Japan and now USA and Italy, the cause of the large quantity of the insects noted on the vessel is undetermined.