Cruise Passenger Fined Over $3,000 for Plant and Food

Cruising is back in Australia, but passengers must follow the rules, as one cruise passenger received a hefty fine for breaking bio-security rules.

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Australia’s cruise industry has resumed sailing at full force, but the return of cruise passengers also brings additional risks. Recently, a cruise passenger was fined $3,300 for breaching Australia’s biosecurity laws, which highlights the importance of understanding the risks associated with bringing items into the country.

The passenger had just completed a cruise to New Zealand from and to Brisbane, Australia, when customs officers found a significant amount of illegal materials in his bags.

Importance of Following Biosecurity Laws in Australia

The Australian cruise industry was severely impacted by the pause in operations worldwide, with many cruise ships banned from docking in Australian ports for an extended period of time.

Cruise Passenger Fine
Photo Courtesy: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

However, the industry has now restarted, with a number of cruise ships sailing from Brisbane on the Gold Coast, including Quantum of the Seas, Pacific Encounter, Carnival Luminosa, ms Europa, and more. The restart of the industry is a welcome development for many businesses that rely on tourism, but it also brings challenges.

Following a cruise that originated from New Zealand and ended at the Port of Brisbane in Australia, a cruise passenger was fined $3,300 for bringing in two live plants, a coconut shell, seed pods, betel nut, mustard sticks, shells, coral, and dried plant materials. It serves as a reminder of the importance of being aware of the risks associated with bringing items into the country.

Cruise Passenger Fine
Photo Courtesy: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

The rules in Australia are clear and declared risk goods will be inspected by a biosecurity officer. If false or misleading information is provided, or if directions given by a biosecurity officer are not complied with, fines of up to $5,500 may be issued, and criminal charges may be brought. In that light, the cruise passenger was let off easy.

It also comes as the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal has received over 100 cruise ship calls in nine months since its first opening on June 2, 2022.

Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd’s (PBPL) Chief Executive Officer, Neil Stephens said, “The Brisbane International Cruise Terminal has 139 bookings for the 2022/23 cruise season, with a current forecast of 199 in 2023/24 – a 43% increase anticipated on this first year.”

Fine Should Be a Warning to Others

According to Dr. Chris Locke, the Deputy Secretary for Biosecurity and Compliance, the recent fine for breaching biosecurity laws is the first of its kind since the resumption of international cruising following the pandemic.

Dr. Locke emphasized that this incident should warn all cruise passengers to understand and follow Australia’s biosecurity laws.

“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. 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.”

The risks associated with bringing plant material into Australia are significant. Plant material can be highly attractive to pests and diseases. These pests and diseases can 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 foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever, which are high-priority pathogens for Australia.

The country actually increased penalties for biosecurity breaches on January 1, 2023. For a single penalty point, the fine went from $222 to $275. For a 12-point penalty, it is now $3,300 from the previous $2,664.

If you are traveling to Australia, it is essential to comprehend the significant risks associated with bringing items into Australia. Be aware of the risks and your responsibilities when bringing items into the country; otherwise, your cruise might turn out to be much more expensive than you bargained for. 

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