A pernicious insect pest known as the stink bug has reportedly delayed four car carriers from unloading their finished vehicle loads in New Zealand.
Local website stuff.co.nz said two types of stink bug were found on the car carrier Glovis Caravel, operated by Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines, last weekend and the ship, bound for Auckland, was redirected after a check conducted at sea. Previously in February three vessels attempting to dock in the country were found to have stink bug infestations: Armacup’s Tokyo Car, Mitsui OSK Line’s Courageous Ace, and Toyofuji’s Sepang Express.
On board the ships are a mixture of new and used vehicles, mostly from Japan.
Stuff said the insects hibernate in contained spaces during the northern hemisphere winter. They release a chemical when threatened, emitting a pungent odour.
The noxious pest could cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the New Zealand economy. The stink bug eats apples, kiwifruit, corn, tomatoes, cherries, wheat, maize and other crops.
A shipping company spokesman told Stuff the company was looking for ports in Australia where the Glovis Caravel could be fumigated.
Fumigation is carried out using methyl bromide sprays; heat treatment is also an effective, if expensive, remedy.
The report said Mitsui OSK had conducted a check of all ships bound for New Zealand after bugs were discovered on the Courageous Ace.
Thirty dead brown marmorated stink bugs had been found on board the Sepang Express which was treated with a knock down spray. A further 19 bugs were found subsequently on the vessel along with other insects.
So far, about 6,000 cars and heavy vehicles were unable to be unloaded but were expected back at the port once approved for import, Stuff said.
Talking to CNN, David Vinsen, CEO of New Zealand’s Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association, said he had never seen a situation as serious as this. On the cargo ships are more than 10,000 vehicles, which will have to be properly treated before they will be let into the country. Some 8,000 cars are still waiting to be loaded into ships in Japan. Already, 95% of imported Japanese vehicles go through approved facilities to kill off any biohazards. It has been mooted that in future the NZ government will require all used vehicles that come in from Japan to be cleaned and inspected.