Cruise ship passenger fined $3,300 for breaking Australia’s bio security laws

You might think cruising is cruisy. But any time you leave and re-enter the country you’re liable to be fined, if you bring the wrong thing home with you.

Buying a souvenir when you travel is pretty common. But if you purchase the wrong item, it could drastically increase the cost of your holiday. One cruise ship passenger on a Brisbane-bound vessel recently learned this the hard way.

Travelling on a ship which originated in New Zealand, the passenger was found to have breached biosecurity laws after trying to enter the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal with two live plants, a coconut shell, seed pods, betel nut, mustard sticks, shells, coral, and dried plant materials.

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the man did not declare his plant material on his Incoming Passenger Card, so was fined $3,300.

The department’s Deputy Secretary for Biosecurity and Compliance, Dr Chris Locke said this was the first fine slapped down since international cruising started up again in the wake of the pandemic. Dr Locke also said this story should serve as a good warning.

“It is fantastic to have cruise ships back at our ports, but we do not want anyone to go home with more than they bargained for by breaching our biosecurity laws,” Dr Locke said.

“Australia is a unique place and the protection of our precious environment and wildlife is why we are so vigilant when it comes to biosecurity. We want to ensure that everyone on board cruise ships disembark with great memories, not infringements or pests or diseases that could potentially devastate Australia’s plants, animals and agricultural systems.”

If you’re wondering why they’re so strict, it’s because Australia, being an island, is free from many pests and diseases found around the world. So we’re trying to keep it that way.

As the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry explains: “Plant material is highly attractive to a considerable range of pests and diseases including arthropods, nematodes, bacteria, fungi, viruses, and viroids, which feed, live and reproduce on and in the plant material and remain viable for prolonged periods of time.”

“There is also the potential for significant animal biosecurity diseases to be associated with plant products, including such things as foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, which are high priority pathogens for Australia.”

They added: “Many exotic pests and diseases can easily survive transport and storage conditions and can be easily distributed into the Australian environment where they could become established and spread further to new areas.”

Officials point out that the cost of controlling or eradicating new diseases, should they find their way into Australia, would be very expensive. They also say these diseases carry the potential to devastate Australia’s export industry – a business worth some $66.6 billion a year.

When you weigh all that up, $3,300 starts to look pretty insignificant. Find out more about your responsibilities when travelling to Australia here.

Originally published as Cruise ship passenger’s ‘naughty’ souvenir sees him slapped with $3,300 fine

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