Check cargo, containers and vessels for pests

​​​Exotic pests, diseases and weeds can hitch a ride to Australia with vessels, shipping containers and break-bulk cargo. If they establish here they can wipe out entire food crops, harm our animals and damage our beautiful environment. Some pests could even change our way of life forever.

We manage these risks through stringent import conditions. But we also need your help.

If you unload, process or transport imported cargo at or away from our ports, we need you to look for insects, animals, plant matter and soil.

How you can help

Transcript DOCX [41 KB, 1 page]

What to look for

Live or dead animals.

Reptiles, birds, mice and even cats have arrived in Australia as stowaways inside containers and on vessels. Also keep an eye out for beetles, bugs, bees, their hives, snails, and ants.

Egg masses on any surface (which can resemble pale furry lumps).

Holes in timber or frass which is the powdery substance expelled from the timber when there is borer activity.

Items including furniture, flooring, and packing materials made from wood can have borers and termites hidden inside. If you see holes in timber with frass nearby then it’s likely there are live borers inside.

Sometimes unprocessed plant materials such as rice husks and straw are used as packing materials which can harbour pests and seeds.

Mosquito activity around pooled water.

Water can contain organisms including mosquito larvae and algae. Australia is currently free of the mosquitoes that transmit a range of serious human diseases such as malaria.

Plant matter, soil or mud — often combined and attached to a surface (e.g. on machinery).

Straw, leaves, bark and other plant material could introduce pests and diseases. Hidden seeds can allow exotic plants to establish as weeds.

Soil can easily hide eggs, insects, snails, seeds and microbes that can cause animal and plant diseases.

Read more about pests and diseases to watch for.

Where to look

  • Inside and on the outside surface of shipping containers.
  • Attached to machinery and vehicles.
  • In timber (e.g. pallets).
  • In packaging including plastic wrapping and cardboard boxes.
  • In food stuffs and wrapping.
  • On vessels.

Report your find

If you see any unexpected pests, plant matter or soil, secure the area and report them to us immediately.

Call our See. Secure. Report hotline on 1800 798 636 or complete our online reporting form.

When you report we’ll give you advice on the best way to contain the problem, and prevent other cargo from being contaminated before we arrive.

Some of the steps you might be asked to take include:

  • Closing container or vessel doors or creating barriers.
  • Isolating the affected cargo in an area away from other goods.
  • Using tarpaulins or blankets to cover the area or restrict animal movement.
  • Taking photos, recording the location and collecting a specimen if safe to do so. This will help us to identify the pest and determine the best treatment.
  • Using knockdown spray as a last resort to prevent insects escaping. Don’t use a knockdown spray if it will cause the insects to disperse.

You may also be legally responsible for informing us of any reportable biosecurity incidents.

Cargo pest guide

The advice on this page can be downloaded in our cargo pest guide.


Document PagesFile size
Cargo pest identification guide PDF16502 KB
Cargo pest identification guide DOCX14332 KB
Cargo pest awareness video transcript DOCX141 KB
Cargo pest awareness video MP4 14.9 MB

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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