Sea container hygiene system fact sheet

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The Sea Container Hygiene System (SCHS) is a government-to-industry agreement developed to manage the biosecurity risks associated with sea containers arriving from countries in the Pacific region.

The system was originally set up by the New Zealand Government to provide a quality management system for high risk containers from Pacific Island nations. In 2010, the Department of Agriculture and New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries signed an agreement to effectively share the SCHS.

What is the risk and how it will be managed?

Both Australia and New Zealand require that sea containers be clean and free of pests and biosecurity contamination on arrival. Under the system, all shipping containers will be cleaned offshore by industry prior to loading, in accordance with the department's import requirements. Containers are cleaned externally and internally at the port of loading and treated externally with an insecticide for pests.

Map of Australia and the Pacific region in relation to sea container activity.

What are the benefits?

The SCHS ensures a high degree of confidence that contracted container processors at the port of loading will be shipping clean containers to Australia.

Containers imported under the SCHS, should not require any additional cleaning or further treatment upon arrival in Australia. As the confidence in the cleaning process increases the department can and will reduce on-arrival inspection accordingly.

The department anticipates that when the system is fully implemented, the number of container inspections will decrease. This will deliver cost savings to industry.

How does SCHS work?

Initially, all containers imported under the system will be subject to a six-sided inspection to verify cleanliness.

The department will collect data based on the performance of the system and review it on a three monthly basis. If at the end of the three months the data shows there is a good compliance history, the level of intervention will be reduced and may drop as low as five per cent of the consignment after sustained strong compliance.

Where contamination levels of the consignment exceed an acceptable threshold the level of intervention will be immediately increased.

Who can apply to join the Sea Container Hygiene System?

Any country listed on Australia’s Country Action List is encouraged to check if it would be beneficial to join the Sea Container Hygiene System.

The department's processes

The SCHS has four basic processes:

  1. continuous monitoring of container cleanliness through on-arrival inspections
  2. providing feedback to industry via voyage reports and ad hoc correspondence
  3. enhancing compliance via a framework that rewards by reducing intervention levels, and penalises non-compliance by increased intervention
  4. conducting offshore audits to ensure all industry led processes are functioning as designed and are documented in standard operating procedures.
Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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