New Import Pest Alert: Heath Snails

The DoA has turned back 900 brand-new Mercedes-Benz vehicles from four Australian ports and ordered them re-exported for treatment, following the detection of Heath Snails.

Photo: Alpine Land Snails Working Group

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported on Heath Snails being detected in five shipments containing 900 motor vehicles at four ports - in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, and WA. (Article by Joshua Dowling, SMH 23 October 2019). They are to be re-exported for fumigation treatment, before possibly being allowed to re-enter Australia.

The Department of Agriculture (DoA) has demanded all 900 cars be exported after “the detection of a number of exotic snails” on five separate shipments of vehicles imported from Europe.

The Heath Snail is understood to exist in south-eastern Europe as well as localised populations in Canada and the USA. The establishment of these parasites - which are not present in Australia - is potentially deadly to livestock and risks contamination of crops, with significant damage to the agriculture sector.

The affected cars are currently being held in strict quarantine near their arrival ports from where they will be re-exported to Zeebrugge, Belgium. They are being measured to be placed on pallets by a transport logistics firm, to take the unusual step of loading them inside shipping containers so they do not contaminate the roll-on, roll-off (RO/RO) freighters that usually transport new motor vehicles.

This is believed to be the first time a shipment of new cars has been turned around in Australia due to a snail infestation and DoA considers it likely to be a one-off, due to specific circumstances in the management of these vehicles before they were shipped.

Mercedes says it is yet to decide if the vehicles will be returned to Australia after being fumigated – or if it will re-order the same batch of cars from various European factories.

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