OPINION: The decision by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to impose an immediate halt to live animal exports in the wake the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 off the coast of Japan is a sensible move.
The cruise sector is expecting a record season, with passenger numbers forecast to jump 33% to 267,800. This, coupled with the enhanced fruit fly threat, has brought MPI and the cruise industry together to improve biosecurity, says Stephanie Rowe, MPI's head of intelligence and operations.
Rowe says more biosecurity detector dog teams will be available this season to screen disembarking passengers for food and plants. MPI will also introduce a portable x-ray machine at North Island ports to scan hand luggage coming off ships.
“Last year we introduced detector dogs to screen passengers at the regional ports. There will be more dog teams available for this type of work this summer.
“If our officers intercept a lot of food or other risk materials from passengers coming ashore when a vessel first lands, we will consider greater intervention at subsequent ports.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the cruise ship industry to identify which vessels we want to target, based on their history, where they are coming from and who the passengers are.”
One of the areas of focus will be working with cruise ship companies to ensure vessels carry stores that do not pose biosecurity risk, says Rowe.
According to MPI, fruit fly host items, such as apples and bananas, account for more than 75% of the biosecurity risk items their officers seize from cruise ship passengers coming ashore.
“If we know this food doesn't pose any biosecurity risk because it has been sourced from New Zealand or from a reputable supplier, we can actually reduce the amount of intervention by our quarantine officers,” says Rowe.
“The other area is biosecurity awareness. We know, for example, that an announcement by the vessel's captain before passengers leave the ship is very effective at stopping food items coming ashore.”
Rowe says MPI are talking with operators about what they can do and how biosecurity official can help get the message across to passengers.
“The good thing is we're getting strong support from the industry. There's an appreciation that cruise ships have a vested interest in looking after New Zealand as tourism destination.”