Articles, Blog

BRII Challenge 4 – full video

(intense music) – [Leanne] Thousands of
shipping or sea containers arrive at Australian ports each day, bringing goods for
consumers and businesses. Some of these containers can carry exotic species or organisms that present a risk to
agriculture production and natural ecosystems. Their establishment and spread
can impact food security, and lead to increased control
and eradication costs, and losses to yields and exports. Checking every container is
not possible given the volume, nor would it be a
productive use of resources as not all present the same level of risk. Physically inspecting a container is also time consuming
and not always effective, as smaller insects and other contaminants are not always easy to detect. A different, more innovative
approach is needed. Hi, my name I Leanne Herrick, I’m the director in the cargo policy area of the Department of
Agriculture and Water Resources, and I’m delighted to
be able to talk to you about this challenge. A key role of the department is to provide a policy and regulatory environment that enables primary producers
to be more productive, and able to compete better in domestic and international markets, reduces risk to our agriculture, fisheries,
and forestry sectors, and protects human health
and the environment. Our regulatory system
includes biosecurity, export control, including
live animal exports, imported food control,
illegal logging prohibition, water efficiency, and labelling standards. Our staff work across the
country and around the world in airports, cargo
terminals, mail centres, shipping ports, quarantine facilities, laboratories, and offices. We inspect and clear millions of people, mail parcels, baggage, ships, animals, plants, and containers
entering Australia every year. Australia’s biosecurity
system is world-class and reflects the cooperation
between governments, industry bodies, exporters and importers, farmers, miners, and
the broader community. The system is extensive
spanning activities undertaken overseas, at our boarders, and within Australia. It is risk-based with a
focus on ships, aircraft, goods, and passengers
presenting the greatest risk. So why do we do this? There is much at stake. Our national biosecurity system protects environmental and primary industry assets, agriculture exports, tourism,
and importantly, jobs. And the impact of
breakdowns in that system can extend well beyond agriculture. For example, some exotic
species can introduce diseases that affect humans,
such as the Zika virus. Other pests can impact our lifestyle if allowed to establish and spread to parks and backyards,
making them uninhabitable. Our island status and
strong biosecurity controls have enabled Australia to remain free of the world’s most
severe pests and diseases. We are one of the fortunate
ones in this regard. However, with trade and
passenger movements, forecasts double by 2025. Dealing with biosecurity risk
is becoming more challenging and we can no longer rely on past success or our geographical isolation. We need to explore new ways of working to know where the risks are, and be able to deal with
them more effectively. Shipping containers are
just one of the entry points we are looking at. Last financial year
approximately three million containers arrived in Australia. The majority was shipped from or transited through 10 countries, China topping the list, followed closely by Singapore. When we talk shipping containers, we use the standard unit of
measurement known at TEU. One TEU is a container
that is 20 foot long. A 40 foot is two TEUs,
and both are usually about eight feet in height. Contamination can occur
on or in containers if they’re not properly cleaned, or if they’re stored
outside prior to shipping. The level of contamination can depend on factors such as proximity
to agricultural land or plantations, and the
degree of separation between what we class as clean containers, and unclean or untreated
containers or goods. The containerized supply chain involves many players, from cargo owners, shipping lines, stevedores,
freight forwarders, logistical service
providers, and custom agents. And the impact of any changes or solutions on these parties would
need to be considered. There are many ranges of container types. The most common is the
dry storage container, which is the first one on your list. This has the greater potential
for hitchhiking pests because of the nooks and crannies and door jams and locks
that the pests can hide in. As indicated, we currently
inspect containers considered of highest risk. The inspection process
involves an assessment of the external services of the container, or both an external and
internal inspection, if the container is to be
transported to a rural area. This is because of the heightened risk to those rural areas. Additional inspections may be undertaken on the goods themselves
that are in the container, depending on the level of risk of that particular commodity. Empty containers are also inspected prior to filling with goods for export. So what do we find? During inspection, we normally find soil, plant material, straw, seeds, fruit, insects, snails, egg masses, animals, and animal material, hair, feathers. This variance in detections often means we can’t adopt a one
size fits all approach. We need to look at different methods. Soil is a particular concern as it can harbour weed seeds, mites, plant pathogens like fungi and nematodes such as roundworm and threadworm, and bacteria and viruses. For the reasons identified, continuing to manually inspect containers is not sustainable. We need to look at alternatives to manage this increasing risk, and those alternatives
need to be both practical and cost-effective. We also recognise we can’t
solve this policy challenge by ourselves, and so we’re keen to draw upon the expertise and creativity of small to medium business enterprises for a better outcome. While this challenge gives
us a range of opportunities for collaboration and to
look at new perspectives, there may not be one solution. Bright ideas could range
from heat sensing technology such as bionic noses and acoustic tools, drone surveillance and robotics, machine learning and
artificial intelligence, or a combination of the above. Solutions could involve new technology or existing technology
that could be adapted. To conclude, change in this
space will have many benefits, including faster boarder clearances and delivery of goods, and reduced cost for
cargo owners and shippers. It would also ensure we can continue to protect our ecological assets, our food security, and our reputation as an exporter of clean, green produce. From a business perspective, there is scope for
solutions to be modified for other uses in the future. For example, inspecting ship holds, for detecting gases and
fumes in containers, and for broader commercialization
on either a national or even international scale. I hope a number of you
take up this challenge and I’d be happy to answer
any questions you may have. I can be contacted by the
details on your screen. (intense music)

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