The Ultimate Stink Bug Season Guide [2021/22 Update]

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) is a well-known pest in the shipping industry posing a significant biosecurity risk to Australia. The bug is known to ‘hitchhike’ on cargo as it travels overseas threatening severe damage to local crops should it enter the Australian region.

Each year, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment imposes strict regulations to prevent the BMSB’s presence in Australia, with a failure to comply resulting in possible destruction of your cargo.  

Below, we review last year’s season and also look at what you can expect for the 2021-2022 Stink Bug Season ahead.

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Stink Bug Season

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What is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug?

The BMSB (Halyomorpha halys) is a brown insect with a shield-like appearance, native to Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea. It was believed to have been accidentally introduced into the United States in the early 1990s (having been discovered for the first time in Allentown, Pennsylvania), where it soon gained its reputation as a pest.

The BMSB feeds on around 300 crops, including critical Australian crops including but not limited to apple, citrus, soybean, tomato and corn. BMSB can cause severe damage to these crops, including the malformation of tree fruit and the stoppage of seed development. Whilst they do not present a risk to human health, they have been known to take residence in people’s homes, where they emit an unpleasant smell.

stink bug demage on crops

Further detailed scientific information can be found on the Department’s September 2015 Guide to the identification of brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, and other similar bugs.

Life stages of BMSB. Left to right: four nymphal stages (2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th instar), adult male & adult female
Life stages of BMSB. Left to right: four nymphal stages (2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th instar), adult male & adult female
Credit: Victoria State Government

Stink Bug Season 2020 Review

In the 2020-2021 stink bug season, the Department praised the maritime industry for its efforts in preventing the stink bug from entering Australia.

“this year, we’ve seen not only half the number of live stink bug in vessels, but we haven’t had to direct a vessel to leave Australian waters for the first time in three years… That’s a fantastic result. But we cannot get complacent”.

Andrew Tongue – Head of Biosecurity at the Department

During the 2020-2021 Stink Bug Season:

  • There were 221 detections
  • There were more than 100,000 containers subject to BMSB measures this season
  • This included 11,963 LCL containers
  • Around 38% of FCL containers and 82% of LCL containers that were subject to BMSB measures were treated offshore.
  • There were 222 detections of BMSB (both alive and dead) – this was virtually the same as the number of detections in the 2019-20 BMSB season
  • 13 incidents of dead bugs detected were detected on arrival (post biosecurity)
  • 14 incidents of alive bugs were detected post-biosecurity
  • 5 overseas treatment providers were suspended, 1 offshore treatment provider was reinstated and 2 were withdrawn from the scheme

Key issues during the last season

shipping container inspection

Over the course of the season, we saw emerging trends demonstrating the key issues facing importers during the stink bug season.

  • Untreated containers arriving to AustraliaOver the season, we observed target high risk goods shipped to Australia in untreated break bulk, flat racks or open top containers – without being treated. We also saw containers exceeding the 120-hour post treatment window where that window was applicable.
  • Containers not properly packed. We saw containers coming into Australia that weren’t packed in a way that could permit effective treatment.
  • Cargo mixing. We also saw a combination of small amount of untreated target high risk goods with goods not actually subject to treatment. This led to entire shipments needed treatment or containers being exported.

The Department has recommended shipments be treated offshore to minimise delays.

2021-2022 Stink Bug Season

The 2021-2022 Stink Bug Season will take place from 1 September 2021 to 30 April 2022 (inclusive). Strict measures will apply to cargo arriving into the country during this period.

This means if your vessel is leaves on August 31st, stink bug measures will not apply, however should your vessel be delayed, stink bug requirements may be enforced. ICE recommends you consider fumigating cargo from August due to the delays the industry is experiencing.

The date the goods have been shipped will be the ‘shipped on board’ date as specified in the Ocean Bill of Lading. The Department will not accept “gate in” dates and times as the relevant date to determine when goods have been shipped.

All affected cargo will need to be treated if exported between these dates.

Who is affected?

The 2021-2022 BMSB seasonal measures apply to:

  • Certain goods (target high-risk goods and target risk goods) manufactured in, or shipped from, target risk countries as ocean freight. Any target high risk or target risk goods manufactured in or shipped from these countries are subject to the BMSB seasonal measures.
  • Any vessel that berths at, loads or tranships goods via these countries will also be subject to heightened vessel surveillance.

Target Risk Countries

In the 2021-22 season, the stink bug season measures will apply to an increased amount of 36 countries.

Any products imported from the below countries during stink bug season will need to be treated.

Note: The following countries have been identified as emerging risk countries for the 2021-22 BMSB risk season and may be selected for a random onshore inspection: Belarus, Malta, Sweden, United Kingdom and Chile.

If your cargo originates from any of the above countries, your goods must be treated.

Goods At Risk of Falling Into BMSB Measures

There are two categories that your goods may fall into:

  • high risk goods; and
  • target risk goods.

High-risk goods are goods that require mandatory treatment for BMSB.

Target risk goods, however, will be subject to increased onshore intervention in Australia through random inspection.

For all other goods not categorised as high risk and target risk goods, BMSB seasonal measures do not apply. However, don’t let that get you complacent. These goods may still be subject to these measures if they are part of a container or consignment that does contain any target or target high risk goods.

Target high risk goods
  • 44 – Wood and articles of wood; wood charcoal
  • 45 – Cork and articles of cork
  • 57 – Carpets and other textile floor coverings
  • 68 – Articles of stone, plaster, cement, asbestos, mica or similar materials
  • 69 – Ceramic products – including sub chapters I and II
  • 70 – Glass and glass ware
  • 72 – Iron and steel – including sub chapters I, II, III, IV
  • 73 – Articles of iron or steel
  • 74 – Copper and articles thereof
  • 75 – Nickel and articles thereof
  • 76 – Aluminium and articles thereof
  • 78 – Lead and articles thereof
  • 79 – Zinc and articles thereof
  • 80 – Tin and articles thereof
  • 81 – Other base metals; cermets; articles thereof
  • 82 – Tools, implements, cutlery, spoons and forks, of base metal; parts thereof of base metal
  • 83 – Miscellaneous articles of base metals
  • 84 – Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof
  • 85 – Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles
  • 86 – Railway or tramway locomotives, rolling-stock and parts thereof; railway or tramway track fixtures and fittings and parts thereof; mechanical (including electro-mechanical) traffic signalling equipment of all kinds
  • 87 – Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling-stock, and parts and accessories thereof
  • 88 – Aircraft, spacecraft, and parts thereof
  • 89 – Ships, boats and floating structures
Target risk goods
  • 27 – Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous substances; mineral waxes
  • 28 – Inorganic chemicals; organic or inorganic compounds of precious metals, of rare-earth metals, of radioactive elements or of isotopes – including sub chapters I, II, III, IV and V
  • 29 – Organic chemicals – including sub chapters I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII and XIII
  • 38 – Miscellaneous chemical products
  • 39 – Plastics and articles thereof – – including sub chapters I and II
  • 40 – Rubber and articles thereof
  • 48 – Paper and paperboard; articles of paper pulp, of paper or of paperboard
  • 49 – Printed books, newspapers, pictures and other products of the printing industry; manuscripts, typescripts and plans
  • 56 – Wadding, felt and nonwovens; special yarns; twine, cordage, ropes and cables and articles thereof

Please note that there are other circumstances that may mean you are exempt from the seasonal measures. This includes:

  • Certain goods packed and sealed before 1 September 2021
  • Certain goods stored or transported to non-target risk countries before 1 September 2021
  • New, Unused and not Field Tested (NUFT) goods
  • Certain household goods and personal effects imported as unaccompanied personal effects

Ensure you are familiar with these exemptions as detailed on the Department’s website.

What measures will be required?

When importing goods into Australia during the 2021-2022 Stink Big Season, you will need to take important note of the following:

  • Breakbulk, flatrack and open top containers will still need to be treated offshore;
  • Six-sided sealed containers can be treated onshore or offshore at the container level – the recommendation, however, is to treat these containers offshore to remove the risk of overpacked and tightly packaged items needing to be unpacked for treatment on arrival (which ultimately creates more delays and added costs for you);
  • Goods requiring offshore treatment and arriving untreated will be prevented from discharge and/or directed for re-export on arrival;
  • All target risk goods will be subject to increased onshore intervention through random inspection; and
  • Non-target high-risk and non-target-risk goods are not subject to BMSB measures unless they are part of a consignment/container that contains target high-risk and target-risk goods.
  • Air cargo arriving between 1 September 2021 and 30 September 2021 (inclusive) from Italy and the United States containing certain target high risk goods will be subject to random verification inspections.

Ensure you familiarise yourself with all the requirements mandated by the Department here.

Cargo Fumigation and Treatment Providers

cargo container fumigation

The Department continues to have three approved BMSB treatments:

  • Sulfuryl Fluoride Fumigation;
  • Methyl Bromide Fumigation; and
  • Heat treatment.

For onshore treatments, you can find a list of approved arrangement providers here.

For offshore treatments, you can find a list of approved arrangement providers here.

In both cases, you will need to present a treatment certificate.

If a treatment provider is suspended during the season, no certificate issued by that provider will be accepted regardless of date of issue. This means goods will need to either be retreated on arrival, exported to their country of origin or voluntarily disposed in an approved manner. There is no allowance for goods in transit.

The Department and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries have aligned the application processes and registration – the scheme allows BMSB treatments to be conducted for both Australia and New Zealand.

Safeguarding Arrangements Scheme

The  2021-22 Safeguarding Arrangements Scheme has been developed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for importers in Australia. It acts as an alternative clearance route for goods imported via sea freight in six hard sided shipping containers during stink bug season.

The scheme allows certain importers to be recognised for their ability to manage the biosecurity risk in their supply chain so their goods are not exposed or contaminated with BMSB or other exotic pests. In the 2021-22 season, applicants for the scheme will need to show that they are transporting goods in a six hard sided shipping container with one or a combination of the following minimum import volumes per supply chain during the stink bug season:

  • 50 x Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) container
  • 25 x Forty-Foot Equivalent Unit (FEU) containers.

Ensure you understand the complete criteria you must satisfy in order to successfully apply for the scheme, which you can learn here.

Stink Bug: Australian Case Study

A prominent example of the stink bug severely impacting a cargo shipment occurred in December 2019 when a cargo vessel carrying over 3,500 cars was turned away after the BMSB was found onboard. The Agriculture Minister at the time, Bridget McKenzie, stated the risk onboard “was deemed too great to allow the ship to dock in Australia”.

Car Advice reported that around 4,000 Hyundai vehicles and 6,000 Kia vehicles would be delayed for several months after four ships were found with the bug. The ship Orca Ace was reportedly directed to leave Australian waters for treatment offshore, whilst the ship Dugong Ace was “subject to quarantine”.

The Minister reminded the industry that these insects would have a hugely destructive impact on Australian crops and were also a “real headache” for residents due to the smell they emit.

Ro-Ro vessels are impacted during stink bug season

To prevent BMSB from entering Australia, the Federal Government will put in place the following:

  • Heightened surveillance for Roll on/roll off (ro-ro) vessels;
  • Mandatory self-inspections for ro-ro vessels;
  • Responses to specific questions will be required from ro-ro vessels as part of pre-arrival reporting requirements;
  • Mandatory seasonal pest inspection on arrival in Australia for all ro-ro vessels that berth at, load or trans-ship via target risk countries; and
  • Exemptions from mandatory inspections for certain vessels approved under the Vessel Seasonal Pest Scheme. You can read more about this scheme here.

What Happens If I Don’t Comply With the BMSB Measures?

Failure to comply with the Stink Bug Season measures can result in delays and extra costs, at a minimum. Importers may have to bear the cost of onshore fumigation by an approved provider, storage of your cargo while it awaits for treatment, and face days of delays that may impact your business.

Your cargo might be even at risk of being reexported or destroyed depending on the conditions. It is always recommended to let experts assess your cargo requirements.

If you need any further advice on how to prepare for the 2021-2022 BMSB season, get in touch with one of our friendly Stink Bug Season experts on 1300 227 461 for a no-obligation discussion or leave a comment below.

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