The fierce heat of the northern hemisphere summer has created perfect breeding conditions for one of the world's worst agricultural pests, with imported cars en route to Australia providing the perfect hiding place.
The Department of Agriculture is on high alert for the descriptively-named brown marmorated stink bug, a voracious insect which feeds on crops, fruit and ornamental trees.
The stink bug season began on September 1, with special decontamination procedures now in place in European and North American ports.
Imported cars and machinery face the highest degree of bioscrutiny because they are difficult to decontaminate and provide the seasonal hitchhiker pest's most favoured breeding habitat. Vehicles have many hidden access points and well-protected locations, such as within air vents, suspension linkages and engine bays.
Over last summer three ships carrying car imports were turned back from New Zealand ports and at least three from Australian ports because vehicles were contaminated.
This led to delivery delays of up to three months in a local new car market already savaged by a 9-10 per cent turndown in buyer demand.
Under new measures introduced by the Australian government, cars and machinery are classified as break bulk cargo and require mandatory treatment before they enter Australian waters "otherwise [they] will be prevented to discharge [goods] and will be directed for export".
The Department of Agriculture states on its website that "goods shipped between September 1 and April 30 need to be treated, and will be referred for intervention if they arrive by May 31, 2020".
Thailand and South Korea, two of our largest car import sources, avoid the problem but the department's "target watch list" countries include Japan, Germany, Italy, United States of America, Belgium, France and the Czech Republic.
Such is the seriousness of the stink bug threat, Australia and New Zealand sets minimum standards of compliance for offshore treatment using one of three different treatments, and require comprehensive certification for each car.
Random checks are made as the cars arrive, with roll-on-roll-off vessels "subject to heightened vessel surveillance".
All the treatment records have to be maintained for a minimum of two years and produced on request within 72 hours.
The stink bug issue was a significant one for Australia's car industry last year often because trans-shipped cargo loaded from other ports en route to Australia may be affected. Once the bug is detected on any ship, all cargo is affected and must be treated, some for a second time.