Anyone looking to buy a new Hyundai or Kia car may have their delivery delayed by up to two months after four cargo ships were quarantined or turned around to treat the latest outbreak of stink bugs and other foreign pests.
Approximately 4000 Hyundai cars and 6000 Kia vehicles are caught up in the first detection of stink bugs for the 2019-2020 season. Other car brands on the same ships are likely to be affected but are yet to come forward.
Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSBs) have interrupted shipments of new cars for the past five years, but the number of detections by the Department of Agriculture has increased annually.
Peak season for stink bug infestations is the lead-up to the northern hemisphere winter, when the insects hibernate. But they come out of hibernation as the ships – and the cars they are hiding in – head south through warmer tropical climates.
Over the past few years stink bugs have caused lengthy delays of cars due to arrive in Australia between November and March.
During the 2017-2018 season there were more than 100 detections of stink bugs. However, there were 310 detections in the 2018-2019 season, according to figures sourced by CarAdvice.
Given the increased biosecurity threat, authorities are monitoring more vessels before they enter Australian waters.
One of the four ships carrying Hyundai and Kia cars was refused entry into Australian waters and directed to be fumigated at a foreign port. Three other ships are being treated and held in quarantine as a precautionary measure.
A confidential Hyundai dealer bulletin obtained by CarAdvice said all vehicles on the ship Orca Ace were “ordered to leave Australian territorial waters for treatment to another country (Singapore or Bintan Island)”. The notice estimated the cars would return to Australia in “the middle of January 2020”.
Hyundai also advised its dealers that cars on another vessel, the Dugong Ace, have been “subject to quarantine and we will issue an update once we have confirmation that the vehicles can be released by the Department of Agriculture”.
At the same time, a confidential dealer bulletin issued by Kia said its cars were caught up by delays of three vessels: the Dugong Ace (shared with Hyundai), the Tranquil Ace and the Glovis Chorus.
“Bio security is important for Australian Primary Industry and we are co-operating fully with the requirements set by the Department of Agriculture,” the Kia notice advised dealers, adding “the delays are not specific to Kia and have affected other automotive brands”.
“Importantly,” the Kia bulletin continued, “the presence of stink bugs and their eradication has no effect on vehicle quality”.
In total approximately 10,000 Hyundai and Kia cars are estimated to be have been caught up in the delays, however other car brands on the same ships are also affected.
CarAdvice understands vehicles on the three quarantined vessels are due to be cleared in the coming weeks, while the ship that was turned around is not due back in Australia until the middle of January.
A statement issued to CarAdvice by the Department of Agruiculture said in part: “Goods on the vessel directed out of Australian territory will need to be treated before returning. The department is continuing to work with the operator to ensure that any treatment delivered give the department confidence that the goods no longer pose a biosecurity risk.”
The department said stink bugs are “a significant threat to agriculture due to its wide host range and the damage it can do to vegetable crops, fruit and ornamental trees”.
The pest is known to feed on more than 300 hosts, including agricultural crops such as nuts, grains, berries, cotton, citrus, soybean, nursery stock and some ornamental and weed plant species.
The department says stink bugs typically stow away in cargo coming out of the northern hemisphere between September and April each year.
Stink bugs are native to China, Japan and Taiwan but were introduced to North America in the mid-1990s and more recently to Europe, “where it is rapidly becoming a serious pest”, the department said.
However, the department says due to strict biosecurity conditions “Australia remains free from many pests and diseases including (stink bugs) that are present in other countries and have the potential to impact on our agriculture industries, the environment, plant, animal and human health”.
In the most recent figures compiled by CarAdvice, the Department of Agriculture has detected stink bugs on more than 1500 new motor vehicles between October 2013 and April 2019.
Meanwhile, in October 2019, approximately 900 Mercedes-Benz cars on five separate ships were turned around by biosecurity officials because the vehicles were infested with a rare snail never before seen in Australia.