In a step to minimise biosecurity risks in the Pacific, the Pacific Community (SPC) organised a virtual regional training last week on strengthening the implementation of the Sea Container Hygiene System (SCHS). The SCHS is a long-term strategy developed in collaboration with New Zealand, Australia and the shipping industry to manage biosecurity risks from sea containers at high-risk loading ports.
Though sea containers have transformed the shipping industry through opening more trade channels, they are a potential biosecurity risk that could seriously threaten agriculture, the environment and national and regional economies.
The virtual training took place as part of the ‘Safe Agriculture trade Facilitation through Economic integration in the Pacific’ (SAFE Pacific) project funded by the European Union. The training was facilitated by SPC's Land Resources Division biosecurity specialists Dr Visoni Timote, Riten Gosai and Ilaisa Dakaica.
Dr Timote said invasive species such as Giant African Snails are a growing concern for the Pacific, and it is critical to manage these for major risk sources such as dirty sea containers.
“Implementing the SCHS also helps ease biosecurity processes because sea containers at the port of export go through standard cleaning procedures. With continued compliance, biosecurity interventions are reduced,” said Dr Timote.
At the same time, eased biosecurity processes reduce costs and improve time efficiency, increasing economic benefits for Pacific countries.
The three day training was carried out across the three Pacific sub-regions – Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia – from 21 to 23 June and was attended by 120 representatives from relevant ministries and biosecurity departments from 12 countries.
Mr Gosai said that despite the training taking place virtually, there was great response and enthusiasm from participating countries as they wanted to expose their officers to the SCHS and how the system operates.
“The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic impacted the way we delivered this training, but it is also providing an example of why strengthening biosecurity is critical. The participants were able to share their experiences, such as adapting to situations as unprecedented as COVID-19 and the strain they bring to biosecurity processes,” he said.
The training programme included an introduction to SCHS, technical details on SCHS operation, promotion of a holistic approach to clean sea containers and the sharing of country experiences. The training was well received and as feedback countries have requested that it be held face-to-face and extended to industry participants.
Current SCHS participants include most ports in New Zealand and Australia, ports in Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby and Lae), the Solomon Islands (Honiara), Samoa (Apia), Tonga (Nuku'alofa) and Fiji (Suva).
The event marked the first SCHS training under the SAFE Pacific project. Further knowledge and capacity building will be provided to participating countries and communities during the SAFE Pacific implementation over the next three years.
Maryann Lockington, Communications Officer SAFE Pacific, Land Resources Division, Pacific Community (SPC) | [email protected] or (679) 3370733