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U.S. Academic Researcher Offers Insights on Australian Wood Packaging Import Procedures
U.S. expert offers insights into Australia''s wood packaging import procedures.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 2/1/2012
Although Australia used to be one of the toughest countries in the world when it came to monitoring wood packaging imports, it has switched to more targeted inspections according to Dr. Chuck Ray of Penn State University. While visiting an international plant health conference held in Australia last year, Dr. Ray toured the operations of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) in Sydney. Dr. Ray’s visit provides a unique perspective into the world of wood packaging when it comes to inspection at foreign ports.
AQIS used to pull everything out to look for bark. Now, it does more targeted inspections because bark is not any where near as big of a problem as it used to be, according to Chuck. He added, “The Australian authorities are not really focused on pallets. They are focused on goods coming in on pallets.”
This doesn’t mean that AQIS is any less determined than it used to be to protect Australia’s borders. It just means that most imported wood packaging material is compliant. There are still some trouble spots in the world that might necessitate a higher degree of scrutiny. AQIS focuses on the paperwork to identify problem loads. It will then open the load to look for any visual problems.
At the AQIS facility at the Port of Sydney, Ray witnessed a container inspection. Currently, AQIS inspects 30% of the shipments destined for urban destinations, and 100% of the shipments headed for locations out in the rural areas. A higher focus is placed on those rural shipments because of the higher probability of any pest damage that could occur should the pest be transported into areas where it would be easily introduced into the native biospheres and farms.
During an inspection, the container is opened, the load is given a visual check to identify any “red flags” that the inspectors might see, and any wooden pallets or containers in the load are checked to ensure they carry the ISPM-15 stamp. For those pallets and crates that can’t be seen, the paperwork is checked to confirm that they were listed as ISPM-15 certified at the port of lading.
Photo 1 shows a typical load that the inspectors tag for quarantine and fumigation. It consists of randomly packed and stacked boxes, including non-treated wood packaging. This load has passed quarantine and is ready to move on.
Aha! What do we have here in Photo 2? Looks like a cross-section piece of a softwood species, possibly with some stain on the cambium layer, wrapped in a vinyl sack. These are popular with the Asian population of Sydney to produce cutting boards and other useful things. AQIS inspectors find lots of these trying to sneak through in their nondescript packaging. Fumigation is required before the load can continue.
Most loads pass through without any problems. Photo 3 shows a nice wooden crate with IPPC stamps all over it.
Fumigation requested by AQIS are carried out by approved third-party sub-contractors, who conduct on-site fumigations. They stay pretty busy giving the volume of cargo moving through the port.
Some imports require more than fumigation. Photo 4 shows a nice El Camino that must be thoroughly spray-washed before it can leave the port.
These AQIS staff were washing the undercarriage of the car to get off any road soil that might transport an unwanted pest onto the back roads of the great Australian countryside. The soil is then washed into a water treatment facility before being discharged into the bay.
Beyond the port inspection, AQIS maintains a large staff of experts all over the country. Dr. David Nehl, Regional Program Manager of Operational Sciences in the Central East Region of AQIS, oversees a lab where hard-to-identify insect samples are sent to the AQIS entomologists to be studied. Photo 5 shows one tray of about two hundred that lined one wall in the lab; it is filled with different dead bugs.
The main takeaway for pallet users and suppliers seems to be paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Ray said, “If you pay attention to the paperwork, you aren’t going to run into any problems with AQIS.”
Ray said that he was impressed with the focus, intensity and the size of the AQIS staff. Seeing the beauty around Australia, Ray commented that he
The regular musings and insights from Dr. Chuck Ray can be found online at his blog at http://gowood.blogspot.com/