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The Ultimate Stink Bug Season Guide (2023/24 Update)


stink bug season 2023

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) is a well-known pest in the shipping industry, posing a significant biosecurity risk to Australia. The bug is known to ‘hitchhike’ on cargo as it travels overseas, threatening severe damage to local crops should it enter the Australian region.

Each year, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry imposes strict regulations to prevent the BMSB’s presence in Australia, with a failure to comply resulting in possible destruction of your cargo.

Below, we review last year’s season and also look at what you can expect for the 2023-2024 Stink Bug Season ahead.

In a nutshell

  • Target high-risk goods and target risk goods are subject to BMSB measures from 1 September 2023 to 30 April 2024.
  • Any goods originating from target risk countries will be subject to BMSB measures.
  • Random inspections will apply to goods shipped from emerging risk countries (China and the UK).
  • All roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) vessels will be subject to heightened vessel surveillance.
  • Failure to comply with BMSB measures may result in your cargo being re-directed for export or destroyed.

Key changes for 2023-2024 Stink Bug Season

  • The addition of Uzbekistan to the Target Risk Country List
  • Introduction of a new Master Consolidator (MC) Declaration Portal
  • Creation of an updated Master Consolidator User Guide for the new MC Declaration Portal
  • Publication of a new Department BMSB FAQs page

What is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug?

The BMSB (Halyomorpha halys) is a brown insect with a shield-like appearance, native to Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea. It was believed to have been accidentally introduced into the United States in the early 1990s (having been discovered for the first time in Allentown, Pennsylvania), where it soon gained its reputation as a pest.

The BMSB feeds on around 300 crops, including critical Australian crops including but not limited to apple, citrus, soybean, tomato and corn. BMSB can cause severe damage to these crops, including the malformation of tree fruit and the stoppage of seed development. Whilst they do not present a risk to human health, they have been known to take residence in people’s homes, where they emit an unpleasant smell.

Further detailed scientific information can be found in the Department’s September 2017 Guide to the Identification of brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, and other similar bugs.

Stink Bug Season 2022 Review

During the 2022-2023 Stink Bug Season:

  • There were 8,321 inspections
  • There were 61,572 consignments that were treated offshore
  • There were 194 detections of BMSB (both alive and dead) – this was more than the number of detections in the 2021-22 BMSB season
  • 24 incidents of alive bugs detected were detected at the Biosecurity Intervention Point
  • 10 incidents of alive bugs were detected post-biosecurity
  • The department directed 62 consignments for export due to arriving non-compliant to import conditions regarding mandatory offshore treatment requirements

2023-2024 Stink Bug Season

The 2023-2024 Stink Bug Season will take place from 1 September 2023 to 30 April 2024 (inclusive). Strict measures will apply to cargo arriving into the country during this period.

This means if your vessel leaves on August 31st, stink bug measures will not apply, however, should your vessel be delayed, stink bug requirements may be enforced. ICE recommends you consider fumigating cargo from August due to the delays the industry is experiencing.

The date the goods have been shipped will be the ‘shipped on board’ date as specified in the Ocean Bill of Lading. The Department will not accept “gate in” dates and times as the relevant date to determine when goods have been shipped.

All affected cargo will need to be treated if exported between these dates.

Who is affected?

The 2023-2024 BMSB seasonal measures apply to:

  • Certain goods (target high-risk goods and target risk goods) manufactured in, or shipped from, target risk countries as ocean freight. Any target high risk or target risk goods manufactured in or shipped from these countries are subject to the BMSB seasonal measures.
  • All roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) vessel that berths at, loads or tranships goods via these countries will also be subject to heightened vessel surveillance.

Target Risk Countries

Note: Uzbekistan has now been added to the Target Risk Country List.

In the 2023-24 season, the stink bug season measures will apply to the countries outlined in the below infographic.

If your cargo originates from any of the above countries and is classed as one of the high-risk goods below, your goods must be treated.

Note: The following countries have been identified as emerging risk countries for the 2023-24 BMSB risk season and may be selected for a random onshore inspection: the United Kingdom and China.

Goods At Risk of Falling Into BMSB Measures

There are two categories that your goods may fall into:

  • high-risk goods; and
  • target risk goods.

High-risk goods are goods that require mandatory treatment for BMSB.

Target risk goods are subject to increased onshore intervention in Australia through random inspection. These include a wide range of goods from wood and cork to ceramic, glass, copper, lead and zinc.

Tariffs 39, 40, 94 and 95 (also known as Chapters 94 and 95) will be subject to random inspections for emerging risk countries (i.e. China and the UK) in the 2023-24 BMSB season. These goods are not subject to mandatory treatment.

For all other goods not categorised as high risk and target risk goods, BMSB seasonal measures do not apply. However, don’t let that get you complacent. These goods may still be subject to these measures if they are part of a container or consignment that does contain any target or target high-risk goods.

Target High Risk GoodsTarget Risk Goods
44 – Wood and articles of wood; wood charcoal
45 – Cork and articles of cork
57 – Carpets and other textile floor coverings
68 – Articles of stone, plaster, cement, asbestos, mica or similar materials
69 – Ceramic products – including sub chapters I and II
70 – Glass and glass ware
72 – Iron and steel – including sub chapters I, II, III, IV
73 – Articles of iron or steel
74 – Copper and articles thereof
75 – Nickel and articles thereof
76 – Aluminium and articles thereof
78 – Lead and articles thereof
79 – Zinc and articles thereof
80 – Tin and articles thereof
81 – Other base metals; cermets; articles thereof
82 – Tools, implements, cutlery, spoons and forks, of base metal; parts thereof of base metal
83 – Miscellaneous articles of base metals
84 – Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof
85 – Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles
86 – Railway or tramway locomotives, rolling-stock and parts thereof; railway or tramway track fixtures and fittings and parts thereof; mechanical (including electro-mechanical) traffic signalling equipment of all kinds
87 – Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling-stock, and parts and accessories thereof
88 – Aircraft, spacecraft, and parts thereof
89 – Ships, boats and floating structures
27 – Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous substances; mineral waxes
28 – Inorganic chemicals; organic or inorganic compounds of precious metals, of rare-earth metals, of radioactive elements or of isotopes – including sub chapters I, II, III, IV and V
29 – Organic chemicals – including sub chapters I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII and XIII
38 – Miscellaneous chemical products
39 – Plastics and articles thereof – – including sub chapters I and II
40 – Rubber and articles thereof
48 – Paper and paperboard; articles of paper pulp, of paper or of paperboard
49 – Printed books, newspapers, pictures and other products of the printing industry; manuscripts, typescripts and plans
56 – Wadding, felt and nonwovens; special yarns; twine, cordage, ropes and cables and articles thereof

Please note that there are other circumstances that may mean you are exempt from the seasonal measures. This includes:

  • Certain goods packed and sealed before 1 September 2023
  • Certain goods stored or transported to non-target risk countries before 1 September 2023
  • New, Unused and not Field Tested (NUFT) goods
  • Certain household goods and personal effects imported as unaccompanied personal effects

Note that NUFT measures for goods of 82, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88 and 89 are in place again for goods manufactured and shipped after 1 December 2023.

Ensure you are familiar with these exemptions as detailed on the Department’s website.

What measures will be required?

When importing goods into Australia during the 2023-2024 Stink Big Season, the measures that are required will depend on the nature of the goods that you are shipping, and how you are shipping them.

Target high-risk goods

  • Must be treated by ‘approved’ treatment providers if they are treated in target risk countries.  You can see a list of these providers here.
  • Treatment certificates from unregistered treatment providers in target risk countries will be rejected.
  • Non-target high-risk and non-target-risk goods are not subject to BMSB measures unless they are part of a consignment/container that contains target high-risk and target-risk goods.

Breakbulk goods

  • These are goods shipped on flatrack and open top (including in-gauge)  containers.
  • Must be treated offshore prior to arrival in Australia.
  • If transhipping, the goods should be treated in a transhipment port to prevent the goods from being exported.
  • Any untreated breakbulk will be directed for export.
  • Onshore treatment in Australia not permitted.
  • Measures also apply to refrigerated containers (operating and non-operating) and hard top sealed containers.
  • Subject to 120-hour rule until 1 December 2023. This means that, after goods have been treated in a target risk country, they must be loaded into a container and sealed, or loaded onto a vessel for export from the target risk country within 120 hours. An additional 48 hours may be applied for in cases where delays in shipping occur.
  • If you become aware of any untreated break bulk before arrival, advise the Department at [email protected].

Containerised cargo (FCL, FCX)

  • If target high risk goods arrive in sealed six hard sided containers, can be treated:
    • offshore, or
    • onshore at the container level.
  • Deconsolidation of the container or removal of goods is not allowed prior to treatment.
  • Sealing declarations can be used in certain circumstances.
  • If containers are treated onshore, shippers must email If email [email protected]  and pack goods appropriately to ensure treatment can be successful – i.e. the goods should not be wrapped and the container should not be overfull.

Containerised cargo (LCL, FAK)

  • If containing target high risk goods, cargo be managed for BMSB at the container level prior to deconsolidation.
  • Containers processed at the Full Import Declaration (FID) level for all other biosecurity intervention (if applicable).

Known risk pathways and supply chains

  • Goods from these pathways or supply chains that have had previous BMSB detections may be subject to intervention.

Ensure you familiarise yourself with all the requirements mandated by the Department here.

Cargo Fumigation and Treatment Providers

The Department continues to have three approved BMSB treatments:

  • Sulfuryl Fluoride Fumigation;
  • Methyl Bromide Fumigation; and
  • Heat treatment.

For onshore treatments

You can find a list of approved arrangement providers here.

For offshore treatments

You can find a list of approved arrangement providers here.

In both cases, you will need to present a treatment certificate.

You can read more about the methodologies and documents required for biosecurity treatments here.

If a treatment provider is suspended during the season, no certificate issued by that provider will be accepted regardless of date of issue. This means goods will need to either be retreated on arrival, exported to their country of origin or voluntarily disposed in an approved manner. There is no allowance for goods in transit. The Department and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries have aligned the application processes and registration – the scheme allows BMSB treatments to be conducted for both Australia and New Zealand.

Safeguarding Arrangements Scheme

The  2023-24 Safeguarding Arrangements Scheme has been developed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for importers in Australia. It acts as an alternative clearance route for goods imported via seafreight in six hard-sided shipping containers during stink bug season.

The scheme allows certain importers to be recognised for their ability to manage the biosecurity risk in their supply chain so their goods are not exposed or contaminated with BMSB or other exotic pests. In the 2022-23 season, applicants for the scheme will need to meet certain eligibility criteria.

At the time of writing, applications are currently open for the scheme. Ensure you understand the complete criteria you must satisfy in order to successfully apply for the scheme, which you can learn here.

Stink Bug: Australian Shipping Case Study

A prominent example of the stink bug severely impacting a cargo shipment occurred in December 2019 when a cargo vessel carrying over 3,500 cars was turned away after the BMSB was found onboard. The Agriculture Minister at the time, Bridget McKenzie, stated the risk onboard “was deemed too great to allow the ship to dock in Australia”.

Car Advice reported that around 4,000 Hyundai vehicles and 6,000 Kia vehicles would be delayed for several months after four ships were found with the bug. The ship Orca Ace was reportedly directed to leave Australian waters for treatment offshore, whilst the ship Dugong Ace was “subject to quarantine”.

The Minister reminded the industry that these insects would have a hugely destructive impact on Australian crops and were also a “real headache” for residents due to the smell they emit.

Stink Bug: Australian Airport Case Study

In December 2022, a biosecurity detector dog named Petal sniffed out a live stunk bug at Brisbane International Airport in passenger’s luggage.

At the time, Patel and her handler were screening passengers coming in from Taipei, Taiwan when Patel detected the smell from a passenger’s duffle bag.

According to the Deputy Secretary of Biosecurity, this was the second live detection of a BMSB by a detector dog since 2018.

The Department’s detector dog program currently maintains 37 dogs which are trained to detect the BMSB.

Ro-Ro vessels are impacted during stink bug season

To prevent BMSB from entering Australia, the Federal Government will put in place the following:

  • Heightened surveillance for Roll on/roll off (ro-ro) vessels;
  • Mandatory self-inspections for ro-ro vessels;
  • Responses to specific questions will be required from ro-ro vessels as part of pre-arrival reporting requirements;
  • Mandatory seasonal pest inspection on arrival in Australia for all ro-ro vessels that berth at, load or trans-ship via target risk countries; and
  • Exemptions from mandatory inspections for certain vessels approved under the Vessel Seasonal Pest Scheme. You can read more about this scheme here.

What Happens If I Don’t Comply With the BMSB Measures?

Failure to comply with the Stink Bug Season measures can result in delays and extra costs, at a minimum. Importers may have to bear the cost of onshore fumigation by an approved provider, storage of your cargo while it waits for treatment, and face days of delays that may impact your business.

Your cargo might be even at risk of being reexported or destroyed depending on the conditions. It is always recommended to let experts assess your cargo requirements.

If you need any further advice on how to prepare for the 2023-2024 BMSB season, get in touch with one of our friendly Stink Bug Season experts on 1300 227 461 for a no-obligation free quote below.

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