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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Asian gypsy moth ...... and the trouble at US / Canada Ports !!

Many a decades ago,  in an interesting case before the Court, was the issue of whether in a seaworthy ship, gnawing by rats of some part of the ship causing seawater entry and subsequent damage to cargo was to be treated as an insured peril.  It was held that the loss was not proximately caused by the rat but ‘by perils of the sea’.  It was held that there has to be distinction between the wear and tear caused by rats and vermin over a period of time and ingress of water into a ship caused by rats attacking a pipe !  Not sure whether rats are still a potent problem, but infestation by vermins are !
Heard of moths and in particular of ‘AGM’? – the  Asian gypsy moth is an exotic insect pest native to Far East countries such as Russia, China, and Japan.  Unlike the European gypsy moth, which is closely related but has a more restricted host range, Asian gypsy moth females are active fliers, capable of flying up to twenty miles.  The only way to tell Asian gypsy moth apart from European gypsy moth is with DNA tests. Asian gypsy moth eggs are found in large masses attached to solid outdoor objects such as trees, stones, lawn furniture, and logs.  Caterpillars emerge in the spring and feed  when they enter the pupal stage. Adult moths emerge 10 to 14 days later.

All these could be regular – and may not be of relevance to Marine Insurance but for the fact that adult moths frequently lay their egg masses on cargo ships and shipping containers, and these hardy egg clusters often survive to hatch at ports of call around the world, including the United States. The first such known introduction was in 1991, where egg masses on a Soviet ship docked in Vancouver were found to be hatching.  It is stated that since 1991, there have been 20 introductions of Asian gypsy moth in the U.S., all of which were eradicated successfully.  In 2004, nearly 14 million acres on the U.S. East Coast were attacked by the insect and its European cousin. The region is still recovering.  The strict inspections are the USDA’s first line of defence against the Asian Gypsy Moth.
Reports suggest that the tiny, dirt-like egg clusters are waylaying cargo at ports in the United States, delaying thousands of containers for days at a time.  Officials are desperate to eradicate the Asian Gypsy Moth,  and for Shippers that means stringent inspections of ships and delays.   Last year close to a dozen ships were forced back to International waters after arriving at the port making it to be called the worst AGM season.   When the moths or their egg sacks are found on a ship, it’s sent back out into international waters where the vessel operator must pay to have it disinfected.  The ship will be allowed only when there is no trace.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canadian officials have worked with ports in countries where the moth is most prevalent —to inspect and disinfect ships before they leave Asia.  AGM are stated tobe voracious eating up hundreds of species of plants. The high-risk periods in these Asian ports, the regulated areas, are determined by the AGM’s “flight season”, when females will be laying eggs, and normally extend from May through September. The United States (US) and Canadian authorities have issued a joint notice advising on risks associated with and actions required for vessels which have visited ports in areas regulated for AGM during specified high-risk periods. The authorities consider the risk of introduction of AGM into North America from the regulated areas to be high for 2015.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has advised that the high risk period for Asian Gypsy Moths commenced on 1 March 2015.  The notice sets out the steps that must be taken by vessel agents prior to entering Western Canadian ports. Vessels which do not comply with the advance notification and certification procedures will be considered non-compliant and subject to enforcement action.  The vessels are expected to maintain  good cleaning practices such as minimising rust, storing excess equipment and clearing debris from the outer decks of vessels, as this will help reduce the chance of AGM infestation while in regulated areas.
Any vessel entering Canada must be free from all life stages of AGM.  If  upon inspection, AGM is suspected,  the vessel will be ordered out of Canadian waters and refused entry for up to two years during the AGM risk period for Canada or until the ship is deemed compliant.
The Master of a marine vessel which has visited a port in a regulated area during the specified periods listed in the current year or in the year immediately preceding the current year, must provide a summary of the ports called upon by the vessel for the past two years, to CFIA, either directly or via the vessel's Canadian agent. The vessel may be required to report at a designated inspection site at a time mutually agreed to by the agent and the CFIA.
The Ports for which ‘High risk periods’ are indicated  are Russian far East,  all ports of Northern China, Republic of Korea and specified ports of Japan – Asia does not include India or Srilanka and we can heave a sigh of relief ! 
With regards – S. Sampathkumar
5th May 2015.

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