Sea container hygiene system frequently asked questions

What is the Sea Container Hygiene System?

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 manage these high risk containers. On 1 September 2010, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) and New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) signed an agreement to effectively share the SCHS.

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.

How is it set up?

In accordance with the department and MPI requirements, shipping companies can arrange with a third-party service provider to establish a port hygiene system. This includes, providing standard operating procedures for training, cleaning, pest management and container storage, as well as conducting regular internal audits. The department and MPI will conduct a 6-monthly or yearly audit depending on the compliance history.

How does the system work?

All containers imported under the system will be cleaned at the port of loading in accordance with the department's import requirements. Initial shipments will be subject to a six- sided inspection on arrival in Australia to verify cleanliness. Once compliance has been established, the level of intervention may be reduced and may drop to as low as 5% of the consignment.

What happens if contamination is found?

If during the inspection actionable contamination is found, the department will inform the shipping industry and stevedores of containers requiring further inspection and the treatment required. In this instance, a full six-sided inspection of 100% of the consignment will apply to the port of loading for 1 month.

Do I get notified if the intervention rate applied to my shipment has changed?

Yes. The department will provide each shipping company participating in the system with an initial monthly report during the establishment period and a compliance report every quarter which outlines the contamination history, next intervention level and any other relevant issues.

What are the benefits of using the system?

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

Which ports will be affected?

System containers now arrive in most Australian ports from ports in Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby and Lae), Solomon Islands (Honiara) and in Samoa (Apia).

Who can apply to join the Sea Container Hygiene System?

Any country listed on Australia’s Country Action List (CAL) is encouraged to check if it would be beneficial to join the Sea Container Hygie​ne System.

Contact Cargo and Mail Section about the Sea Container Hygiene System.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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