AUSTRALIA is a signatory to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, this protocol was signed in 1987 and entered into force in 1989. The protocol has been ratified by 198 countries. The purpose of this protocol is to eliminate Ozone Depleting Substances; ODSs commonly known as Hydrofluorocarbons can be found in goods like white goods and air-conditioners but in my opinion one of the more important and forgotten ODSs is methyl bromide (CH3Br) which is known as United Nations Number 1062.

Methyl bromide is the most commonly relied upon fumigant used to fumigate goods prior to shipping by sea to Australia and also used to treat goods on-shore in Australia. There are five countries who manufacture CH3Br. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment heavily relies upon methyl bromide to treat goods that enter Australia; this reliance has been further escalated in recent years with the brown marmorated stink bug seasons.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the World Customs Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the Australian government are all aware methyl bromide [CH3Br] is an issue to the ozone layer. In Australia CH3Br is listed as a Prohibited Import (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, Regulation 5K, Schedule 10 but fumigators in Australia are able to obtain an import permit under Section 16 of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989.

In 2016 New Zealand consumed 602,000 kilograms of CH3Br on-shore; in total the world consumed 68,400,000 kilograms of CH3Br in 1996; this does not take into account the amount of CH3Br which has been required in recent years to have goods treated for BMSB either on-shore or off-shore. In 2017, the Australian Border Force reported Australia had 429,105 LCL declarations with a value over $1000 AUD and 1,153,363 FCL declarations. In 2018, the ABF reported Australia had 448,692 LCL declarations with a value over $1,000 AUD and 1,242,962 FCL declarations; there would be cargoes involved in this number which were not required to be fumigated but for the reporting years of 2019-2020 there were 33 countries which were required to be treated for BMSB either on-shore or off-shore.

Not every TEU needs to be fumigated off-shore or on-shore but considering that the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment had listed 33 countries as BMSB high risk in the 2019-2020 season, the use of CH3Br has had, and will have, a usage increase year on year.

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The United Nations has a “road map” to 2047 where ODSs will be eliminated; my question is: the more that governments’ rely upon CH3Br, what will be the alternative to methyl bromide? The United Nations has forecast a phase down of ODSs by 2047.

Whether a shipment has been fumigated off-shore or on-shore, the importer should receive a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet [MSDS] for UN 1062 – Methyl Bromide [link here: http://www.inchem.org/documents/icsc/icsc/eics0109.htm] so that the importer can risk assess their workplace and employees exposure. Considering the fact that FCL shipping containers are delivered to importers premises and can be unpacked within one hour (I have never seen a forklift driver wear personal protective equipment to protect themselves from any fumigant gas residue).

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