Every year, thousands of containers of cargo arrive into Fiji from all over the world. From a quarantine viewpoint, any of these containers could potentially introduce an exotic pest or disease into the country. Harmful pests, foreign weeds, unwanted seeds and other unwelcome organisms may hitch-hike undetected with the imported goods, either on or in the shipping containers, or in the goods themselves.
Plant pests such as the giant African snail (GAS), Asian gypsy moth (AGM), brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) and animal diseases such as rabies and foot and mouth (FMD) not only cause harm to our agriculture and horticulture industry, environment and biodiversity but can also affect our agricultural exports and economy.
As such, the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) has a number of requirements that ensure compliance for cargo arriving into Fiji and this helps to mitigate risks of foreign pests and diseases. Biosecurity Officers inspect all cargo of interest; whether commercial importation or for personal use (including personal effects and household effects) that come to Fiji through sea and air including international mails and parcel posts.
Biosecurity procedures for sea containers
Declaration in cargo manifest – the cargo manifest declaration is one of the most important and the first requirement for importing goods into Fiji as it helps BAF to conduct risk profiling on the items listed in the manifest and ascertain which cargo needs biosecurity inspection. This declaration must be sent 48 hours prior to the vessel’s arrival. The cargo manifest contains information such as container number, origin (where the container was packed), name and address of the exporter/importer and a complete and accurate description of the contents, including the type of packaging material used.
Inspection of containers – shipping containers, when not cleaned, handled and stored appropriately, essentially become transport mediums for exotic pests, disease pathogens and other containments such as soil. Insects can hitchhike to Fiji by attaching themselves to the sides or surfaces of the containers or hiding in corners and tiny cracks. Therefore, inspection of all the exterior surfaces of all imported containers is conducted first for pest infestation and/or contamination with soil while the containers are being offloaded at the port of entry. If pest(s) or soil contamination is found, the container is removed or treated before it can proceed for further inspection or clearance.
Inspection of goods – Biosecurity officers inspect the imported goods, packaging and the insides of the container for pests and other contamination. The interior of the container is also a very good hideout for insects as well as small animals. Biosecurity Officers have in the past intercepted live animals such as cats and rodents inside sea containers.
Biosecurity Officers ensure that the goods are safe and free from harmful plant and animal pests and diseases. The officers verify relevant documents required to import the product being inspected into Fiji (such as the import permit, phytosanitary certificate for import of all plant and plant products and veterinary certificate for import of all animal and animal products, treatment certificate and transhipment permits, etc.) before clearing the consignment.
Import permits outline conditions that ensure biosecurity risks have been taken care-off offshore. If the import permit conditions stated in the import permit issued by BAF are not complied with and all required documents are not presented during inspection/clearance, then BAF will take appropriate biosecurity actions to mitigate quarantine risks. These actions could be detaining the goods, treating the goods before granting release or destroying them. If all the import conditions are met and required documents are submitted, then the goods are released to the importers.
Note: Biosecurity treatments for imported goods include, and are not limited to, fumigation, steam cleaning, fogging and spraying.
Inspection of wooden materials used in packing – BAF requires that all timber used for making pallets or other types of packing material for use in shipping containers be International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15) compliant. ISPM 15 is an international phytosanitary measure developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) that directly addresses the need to treat wood materials of a thickness greater than 6mm to be used for shipping products between countries. The standard’s main purpose is to prevent the international transfer and spread of disease organisms and insects that could hide in wooden/timber products.
Wood packaging material such as pallets, crates, dunnage, etc. could contain some of the world’s most dangerous coleopterans such as Khapra beetle, Asian long-horned beetle or wood borers and if introduced in Fiji, they could have devastating effects on our forests, timber industry, agricultural crops and environment.
Inspection of empty sea containers – great majority of containers used for exports from Fiji are either owned by the maritime shipping firms or container leasing companies. As such, a large number of containers return to the country as empty containers or “empties”, also called MTs. BAF inspects these containers for pests as the empties lying idle overseas become a good breeding ground for insects and hide-out for small animals which can easily stowaway to Fiji when the containers return home unchecked.
The exterior of all empty containers returning to Fiji are inspected for pests (insects, acari), snails and soil while being unloaded from the vessel. Internal inspection for insects, small animals, grains, seeds, timber and soil, etc. is done after the container has been offloaded.
If the container is clean and not infested with pests or contaminated, it is released to its owners. However, if infestation or contamination is found, then the container is high pressure washed, steam cleaned thoroughly or fumigated before being released. There are fees and charges applicable for the supervision of container cleaning or fumigation.
Vehicles and machinery – all machineries and vehicles entering Fiji are also inspected by BAF for soil, plant material, insects, small animals or other types of contamination. If such non-compliances are found, then the machines and vehicles will need to be washed, steam cleaned, fogged, sprayed or fumigated to mitigate any biosecurity risk before release.
Moving to Fiji – what you need to now
If you are moving to Fiji as a returning resident or new resident, you should know the biosecurity requirements of moving your household goods. Please pay close attention to the following:
Packing list –
How can you clear your goods through Biosecurity?
You can clear the goods yourself, appoint someone to clear the goods on your behalf or use a customs broker (freight agent). In any case, Biosecurity Officers will examine your packing list for items of biosecurity concern. Usually all boxes containing personal effects are regarded as biosecurity risk and will require an inspection. Following inspection, if no items of biosecurity concern are found, your goods will be released. However, if items of biosecurity concern are intercepted and you do not have the required documentation or certification to import them, then your options would include either treating the items (if a suitable treatment is available in Fiji), destroying them by surrendering to BAF for incineration or re-exporting the items back to the country of origin. There are fees and charges applicable for the inspection and clearance of personal effects.
Biosecurity and international mail
BAF screens all incoming international mails for the potential introduction of exotic pests and diseases to Fiji through the postal system, while facilitating the movement of mail. One of the most smuggled items in international mails are seeds which present a very high biosecurity risk as it can introduce exotic diseases and weeds which can threaten our native plants, forest and agriculture.
High risk pests found in imported cargo
Below are some of the common pests that are intercepted during import inspection hitch-hiking and stowing on or in cargo containers and packaging materials. We most definitely do not want these pests getting into and establishing in the country!
Giant African Snail (GAS)
GAS is known to be one of the most damaging agricultural pests in the world. It can grow to over 30 centimetres in length, feed on over 500 different species of plants and lay more than a thousand eggs each year. High fecundity is one of the reasons why GAS is so difficult to eradicate once it establishes in an area. This pest could enter Fiji in or on cargo containers, empty containers or bags, under packing cases and pallets and by hiding in empty spaces in machinery or motor vehicles. GAS is every-so-often intercepted at Fiji ports due to them being present in some neighbouring Pacific island countries (for e.g. Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Samoa). Despite this, BAF has so far managed to keep this pest out of Fiji through vigilance at the ports of entry and meticulous inspection of all vessels, imported cargo and containers. Help BAF in keeping Fiji GAS free!
Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM)
AGM is a notorious forest pest and voracious feeder. It eats the leaves of more than 500 different species of trees and shrubs and causes enormous damage to forests and the environment. This moth can enter Fiji on ships, containers, vehicles, machinery and other types of cargo. A major outbreak of AGM in Fiji would potentially destroy forests and native flora, high value trees and trees/shrubs of cultural significance as well as major agricultural crops and the communities that depend on them. AGM larvae are a social nuisance too – they can be found in high numbers in public dwellings and houses wherever this pest is established. Biosecurity Officers thoroughly inspect ships and their cargo for AGM and its egg masses; especially those arriving from high risk Asian and European countries.
Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA)
RIFA is a highly invasive and destructive species of ant that is not present in Fiji. It is more aggressive than most native ant species and has a painful sting. It can also damage plant roots leading to loss of crops. RIFA are also a threat to small animals such as birds and reptiles. Aside from inspecting ships and the cargo they carry for ants and other pests, Biosecurity Officers also maintain a surveillance system to provide early warning against the entry of invasive ants.
Exotic Fruit Flies
The arrival of foreign fruit flies, especially those present in our neighbouring countries and not found in Fiji, pose high risk to our agricultural industries and could devastate many of the crops we rely on for food, exports and our economic well-being. The most likely way for exotic fruit flies to enter Fiji is in infested fruit. For this reason, personal importation of fresh fruits and vegetables is strictly prohibited. All commercial imports of fruits and vegetables require disinfestation treatment or certification as being grown in a fruit fly free region or fruit fly free country.
BAF maintains a fruit fly surveillance system across Fiji. Fruit fly surveillance helps monitor population trends of native fruit fly species and also serves to provide early warning for exotic species if they do make it across our borders. The fruit fly surveillance trap sites are strategically chosen and located in high risk areas of Suva, Nadi, Nausori, Sigatoka, Lautoka, Tailevu, Naitasiri, Taveuni, Lomaiviti island group, Lau island group, Mamanuca island group, Yasawa island group, Rotuma and many parts Vanua Levu island. The number of trapping sites has increased consistently over the years and is expected to grow further as BAF continuously upgrades its fruit fly surveillance program.
Other pests such as wasps, spiders, lizards, rodents and many types of snails are also frequently intercepted on sea containers coming to Fiji. Once interception occurs, treatment measures are immediately employed to ensure all biosecurity risks are eliminated. It is important that all containers loaded onto vessels are clean and free from any of the life stages of the pests mentioned above.
Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility and we should all work together to keep Fiji free from harmful exotic pests and diseases.