Elsewhere on DAFF
Biosecurity Bulletin - May 2012
- Deputy Secretary Message
- Streamlining passenger and mail screening – experiences from Sydney
- Australian Fumigation Accreditation Scheme continues to expand
- New requirements to protect Australian marine life
- On–farm biosecurity – lessons learnt from a recent avian influenza incident
- DAFF to launch streamlined system for live animal exports
Deputy Secretary Message
Welcome to the May Biosecurity Bulletin.
In last week’s Federal Budget announcement the Australian Government signalled its continued support for the ongoing improvement of Australia’s biosecurity system, committing $524.2 million in new funding. This includes:
- $379.9 million over seven years to build and operate a new government–owned–and–operated post–entry quarantine facility for high–risk plant and animal imports.
- $124.5 million over four years for risk–response capability and external review and verification purposes. This will support biosecurity operations at international airports and mail centres, and arrangements such as the Interim Inspector General for Biosecurity and the Biosecurity Advisory Council. This is in addition to the annual Quarantine Border Security allocation to DAFF and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, which is $140.6 million in 2012–13.
- $19.8 million over three years to support current biosecurity information and communication technology infrastructure and systems.
In addition, a separate $95.9 million from the Caring for our Country program has been allocated to fund eradication programs for nationally significant pests and diseases.
In his budget announcement, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, also announced that consultation on new biosecurity legislation, which will replace the century–old Quarantine Act 1908, is expected to begin shortly.
In this issue of the Bulletin we look at some of the continuing reforms being made to our biosecurity system. These include introducing new requirements for managing ballast water from ships to help prevent invasive marine species entering Australian waters, and expanding the successful Australian Fumigation Accreditation Scheme into a multilateral arrangement. We also report on changes being made to streamline passenger and mail processing procedures at Sydney International Airport and the Sydney Gateway Facility.
Streamlining passenger and mail screening – experiences from Sydney
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Biosecurity (DAFF Biosecurity) is implementing its new risk–based intervention approach to biosecurity management in airports and mail centres across Australia.
This task has been particularly significant at Australia’s biggest airport, Sydney International Airport, and biggest international mail centre, the Sydney Gateway Facility.
"These sites receive a considerable volume of passengers and mail entering Australia," DAFF’s Central East Regional Manager," Rick Hawe, said.
"The sheer scale of operations poses both challenges and opportunities in implementing this new approach."
The risk–return model involves a move away from intervening with a mandated number of passengers and mail items towards a more targeted approach, focusing on higher–risk passengers, goods and mail articles. The challenge at both sites was ensuring staff and stakeholders understood the new approach and the resulting changes to passenger and mail management.
At Sydney International Airport, DAFF Assistant Director, Russell Cant, said consultation was key.
"We worked closely with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and representatives from Sydney Airport Corporation Limited to develop the implementation strategy. We began slowly, initially implementing the new approach for just one flight in one arrivals hall. By November 2011, it was in place for the entire day in both arrivals halls," he said.
Streamlining the path of passengers and goods that have been assessed as low–risk through the inspection process has made it more efficient.
"It allows us to minimise delays at the airport for passengers who are biosecurity compliant," Mr Cant said.
At Sydney Gateway Facility, which is owned and managed by Australia Post, implementation commenced in late 2011 after consultation with Australia Post and ACBPS.
"We implemented these procedural changes during the Christmas period, when mail volumes reach their annual peak," Director, Mail, Edwina Durnford said.
"In recent years the requirement to screen a mandated number of mail items contributed to significant backlogs of Christmas mail. In 2011, we were able to identify the mail that posed little biosecurity risk and establish new work practices to remove those items from the screening process. This resulted in minimal backlog occurring," she said.
Australian Fumigation Accreditation Scheme continues to expand
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is drafting a multilateral arrangement for managing quarantine treatments for incoming cargo.
The development of the multilateral arrangement follows from the success of the Australian Fumigation Accreditation Scheme (AFAS), which the department has been implementing in various countries since 2004.
AFAS was established to address biosecurity risks posed by ineffective fumigations performed offshore. It improves the technical capability of overseas fumigation companies and develops the capacity of our trading partners’ quarantine authorities to register, monitor and audit fumigation companies.
AFAS is currently managed through a series of bilateral arrangements between the department and the respective regulatory authority in each country. It is fully operational in Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Thailand, and is at varying stages of implementation in Vietnam, the People’s Republic of China, Chile, Peru and Sri Lanka. The department is also working with the International Regional Organization for Plant and Animal Health to implement the scheme in a number of Central American countries.
The new multilateral arrangement will require quarantine treatments to meet AFAS requirements for trade between all participating countries, therefore increasing the probability that fumigators will consistently maintain the AFAS treatment standard.
The multilateral arrangement will also help harmonise cargo quarantine treatments, as it will have the capacity to include various treatments and initiatives under its management framework. It will also provide quarantine regulatory authorities with a forum to discuss biosecurity issues and initiatives not covered by relevant international standards.
The department has formed a working group with New Zealand, Indonesia, the People’s Republic of China, Chile and Malaysia to drive the development and implementation of the arrangement. The group will present the arrangement for final consideration at the Quarantine Regulators Meeting in Vietnam 12–14 June, 2012.
New requirements to protect Australian marine life
International vessels entering Australian waters must comply with new requirements for managing their ballast water to reduce the risk of introducing harmful marine pests.
Ballast water, which is water held in a ship to help stabilise it, is thought to be responsible for about 20–30 per cent of all marine pest incursions in the Australian marine environment.
Under the Government’s new requirements, the discharge of ’high–risk’ ballast into the Australian territorial sea (the area within 12 nautical miles of the Australian coast) is prohibited. High–risk ballast water generally includes any ocean water from ports and coastal waters outside Australia’s territorial sea.
The requirements set out a number of approved ballast water management options. These include several methods for conducting full deep–ocean ballast water exchanges, which effectively means empting the vessel of high–risk ballast water outside Australian territorial sea and replacing it with water from the deep ocean, which is considered low risk.
All vessels entering Australian waters must complete a Quarantine Pre–Arrival Report, which includes a declaration of whether or not they have complied with the ballast water management requirements. Vessels also have the option of submitting a Ballast Water Management Summary before arriving to show that they have complied with the requirements to get early permission to discharge ballast water on arrival. The Ballast Management Summary contains real–time records of ballast water management conducted at sea. DAFF Biosecurity officers also conduct vessel inspections to ensure compliance.
The new requirements are set out in “The Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements – Version 5” and are enforceable under the Quarantine Act 1908. They align with the International Maritime Organisation’s “International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments,” which aims to minimise the translocation of marine pest species through the discharge of high–risk ballast water.
On–farm biosecurity – lessons learnt from a recent avian influenza incident
A recent outbreak of low–pathogenic avian influenza has highlighted the importance of implementing and exercising good on–farm biosecurity practices.
The March 2012 edition of the Biosecurity Bulletin included an article about an incident of low–pathogenic notifiable avian influenza (H5N3), which was found on a free–range duck farm northwest of Melbourne.
The Victorian Department of Primary Industries has now finished decontaminating the farm and has conducted tracing activities that have shown no evidence of the virus spreading to other farms.
The influenza virus strain which was involved was not the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that is often commonly referred to as ’bird flu.’ Nor were there any food–safety issues arising from the incident.
Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, said that the outbreak was a timely reminder of the need to always have good on–farm biosecurity practices in place.
"Because low–pathogenic avian influenza viruses are known to occur in wild birds in Australia, on–farm biosecurity is important.
"Good biosecurity measures don’t need to be expensive or complicated, but do need to be practised everyday and practised to an effective standard. Simple measures such as securing feed and water from wild birds, ensuring dam water is treated before being used as drinking water for farmed birds, and disinfecting hands and boots before entering bird–housing facilities can make all the difference."
"Measures which can prevent wild birds coming into contact with farmed birds should be employed wherever possible," Dr Schipp said.
The DAFF website has more information about bird biosecurity. Animal Health Australia’s Farm Biosecurity website also provides information about bird biosecurity, including a ’farm biosecurity toolkit’ to assist farmers assess biosecurity risks on their farms and find ways to reduce them.
DAFF to launch streamlined system for live animal exports
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is launching a modern, web–based IT system that will expedite the submission and assessment of applications to export live animals.
The Tracking Animal Certification for Export (TRACE) Release 2 system, which will be accessible from late May, was developed under the Export Reform Certification Implementation Program. It is part of measures being implemented to improve the delivery of export certification services.
The initial version of the system, TRACE Release 1, was launched on 4 July 2011. It allowed licensed livestock exporters to complete electronic notices of intention to export (NOIs) and upload supporting documentation. This replaced the previous manual application process.
This latest version, TRACE Release 2, will be accessible to licensed exporters and our staff. The system’s additional functionality will allow exporters to record the entire export process in the TRACE system, while ensuring the security of commercial information. Exporters will be able to:
- save and manage importer details
- manage, duplicate, vary or cancel applications
- apply for ’health certificates and permission to leave for loading’ and ’export permits’
- electronically submit daily reports, and ’end of voyage’ and ’end of journey’ reports
Exporters using the TRACE system also benefit from reduced data entry costs that were previously incurred when they submitted NOIs manually.
Assistant Secretary of the department’s Animal Export Operations Branch, Dean Merrilees, said the TRACE system would benefit industry and DAFF.
"Livestock exporters will benefit from reduced costs and DAFF will benefit from being better able to communicate with exporters through the system, and from its increased reporting capability."
Training for Trace Release 2 has been completed in our regional offices for DAFF staff and exporters.
Future releases of TRACE will allow exporters and our staff to manage applications for non–livestock species (such as horses, zoo animals, and companion animals) and reproductive material. This is scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2012.
18 May 2012