Animals

Ship infested with tree-killing Asian beetle ordered to leave US


The Pan Jasmine had wood on its deck infested with five pests including a tree-killing Asian beetle (Picture: US Customs and Border Protection)

A cargo ship that anchored near New Orleans was ordered to leave the US after federal agents found wood infested with an Asian beetle that has been killing American trees for about a quarter-century.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials inspecting the Pan Jasmine on July 17 found that wood it was carrying had five different kinds of pests, The New Orleans Advocate and The Times-Picayune reported. Two of the five pests, a beetle and an ant, are considered serious risks to crops in the US.

‘If the wood had been offloaded into the US, it would have been put in a Louisiana landfill where the insects could crawl out and invade the local habitat, causing incalculable damage,’ said Terri Edwards, the CBP’s New Orleans area port director.

The 590-foot ship stopped in the Mississippi River about a mile down from New Orleans. It previously departed a port in India and offloaded aluminum in Veracruz, Mexico.

Wood that was used to pack aluminum had not been unloaded in Mexico and was scattered on the deck of the vessel, which looked unusual to CBP agents.

‘No reason was provided as to why the (wood) was refused discharge in Mexico, and this raised a red flag,’ the CBP said in a statement on Wednesday.

The wood had burrowing holes as well as sawdust. The longhorned beetle bores into wood and can eat various trees in the US, causing them to eventually die. It belongs to the Cerambycidae family.

Cerambycids are native to China and the Korean peninsula. They were first discovered in New York City in 1996 after being accidentally imported on wooden shipping materials. In two years time, the beetles had destroyed nearly 7,000 trees and cost $530million in control efforts.

Meanwhile, the ant, from the Myrmicinae family, forms colonies that compete with native species and wreck havoc on crops.

Pan Jasmine, ordered to depart, left on July 21 for Freeport, Bahamas, where there are wood disposal services.

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