Check Cargo and Containers for Pests

Exotic pests, diseases and weeds can hitch a ride to Australia on vessels, containers and loose cargo. DAWR has released a guide letting importers know what to look out for.


If certain pests establish themselves in Australia, they can wipe out entire food crops, harm our animals and damage our unique environment, perhaps even changing our way of life forever. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) has updated their advice to importers on what to look for, and where.

What to look for

Live or dead animals.
Reptiles, birds, mice and even cats have arrived in Australia as stowaways inside containers and on vessels. Also keep an eye out for beetles, bugs, bees, their hives, snails, and ants.

Egg masses on any surface (which can resemble pale furry lumps).

Holes in timber or ‘frass’ - which is the powdery substance expelled from the timber when there is borer activity. Items including wooden furniture, flooring, and packing materials.
Sometimes unprocessed plant materials such as rice husks and straw are used as packing materials which can harbour pests and seeds.

Mosquito activity around pooled water.
Water can contain organisms including mosquito larvae and algae. Australia is currently free of the mosquitoes that transmit a range of serious human diseases such as malaria.

Plant matter, soil or mud — often combined and attached to a surface (e.g. on machinery).
Straw, leaves, bark and other plant material could introduce pests and diseases. Hidden seeds can allow exotic plants to establish as weeds.
Soil can easily hide eggs, insects, snails, seeds and microbes that can cause animal and plant diseases.

Where to look

  • Inside and on the outside surface of shipping containers.
  • Attached to machinery and vehicles.
  • In timber (e.g. pallets).
  • In packaging including plastic wrapping and cardboard boxes.
  • In food stuffs and wrapping.
  • On vessels.

Report your find
If you see unexpected pests, plant matter or soil, secure the area and report them to DAWR at their See. Secure. Report hotline on 1800 798 636  
Some of the steps you might be asked to take include:

  • Closing container or vessel doors or creating barriers.
  • Isolating the affected cargo in an area away from other goods.
  • Using tarpaulins or blankets to cover the area or restrict animal movement.
  • Taking photos, recording the location and collecting a specimen if safe to do so. This will help authorities to identify the pest and determine the best treatment.
  • Using knockdown spray as a last resort to prevent insects escaping. Don’t use a knockdown spray if it will cause the insects to disperse.

FREE CALL (IN AUST) 1800 659 317