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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Spiders aboard Ship - cargoes infested with insects

Dear (s)
Guam and MV Altavia were in news in July 2010 for wrong reasons. Guam is an island in the Western Pacific Ocean, is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana islands.

The vessel MV Altavia had its last pot of call in Korea and arrived at Guam to discharge housing units and accessories to be used in a village for construction of houses for workforce. The village was to house thousands of temporaty workers. The Port official alongwith Customs boarded the ship and clearance was given for offloading. It is at this time, they found critters – thousands of them crawling.

They were the large spiders, thousands were found on the cargo and on the ship. The Port Police notified the Guam Customs and Quarantine agency who instructed the cargo to be placed back on the ship and sent to anchorage. The vessel was placed outside the harbour area. Samples were sent to Department of Agriculture’s plant inspection facility to determine whether the species were invasive.

Insects infesting cargo is not unusual. When found the cargo would be fumigated, if it had spread to the vessel, the ship itself would be quarantined. The ship will have to bear those expenses.

Sounds pretty simple - here it was a cargo of housing units which may not be affected but imagine what would be the fate if the cargo were to be food grains, edible items or medicines !!

In one consignment, man small beetle like insects were found. At that time, copious quantity of saw dust lying beneath the pallet strip was also observed. It was found that the cross members of the pallet had numerous boreholes throughout its length. The insects had crawled their way out into the pockets of cargo as well.

These were timber boring beetles that could have wound their way within at the time of packing. The cargo was ordered to be fumigated. But as it was a consignment of medicines, the consignee refused to take delivery stating that they could no longer be used as medicines.

This is no fortuity of transit or a marine peril. Experts stated that the possibility of this infestation was not during the transit which was fortified by the life cycle of those worms. The female beetles lay eggs in pores of surface of wood and slowly grow and emerge out.

This is different from the infestation that cargo like foodgrains would suffer by pest or vermin. Rats consume more than their weight of food every week. The presence of rat would also make them getting rejected as rats are carriers of virulent diseases. Beetles and moths cause wide range of damage.    Some more types found in cargo are :
- Lice in bales of rags.
- White Ants in certain tropical woods and often in flat dunnage.
- Cockroaches in some bamboo and old cord wood.
- maggots are found in animal hoofs, horns, bones and skins.
- Type of moths in cocoa beans and coffee
- Weevils in bran rice
- Tribolium castaneum in wheat flour
- Red and confused flour beetles in stored grain products

Thus infestation of cargo by moths, insects is nothing new; in fact loss proximately caused by rats or vermin is an excluded loss specified in Marine Insurance Act itself.  Fumigation prior to packing and prior to loading into a container generally disinfects. There are specified substances used for each type. Of course there is need to ensure that the application of fumigants is in congruity with the cargo that is being shipped.

- S Sampathkumar.


  1. Provides a great insight into what can happen to cargo - Thanks Sampath - Suri

  2. I have had some experience with handling cargo - it is really scary to read about spiders and pests. Enjoyed the article though - Rajkumar

  3. very interesting and informative.

  4. extremely well written - Angelina

  5. I am a truck driver and pull containers off the east coast and I have ran into some nasty spiders in these containers. Some were very poisonous.

  6. Situated at the fringe of short distance to city, Sant
    Ritz at Potong Pasir (Singapore) in District 13. the interlace condo (