The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment is undertaking a validation trial of the Biosecurity Automated Threat Detection System (BATDS) in partnership with Trellis Data and DP World Australia’s Brisbane Terminal to improve surveillance capability at container ports.
By combining automated cameras and real-time machine learning the department will be able to scan the external surfaces of sea containers for contaminants and biosecurity risk material (BRM) as they are being unloaded from cargo ships.
Developed by Canberra-Based company Trellis Data these machine-learning cameras are able to detect foreign pests just a few millimetres in scale are the latest weapons being used to stop biosecurity threats from entering the country. Last year the camera’s were used as part of a trials by the DAWE at the Port of Brisbane.
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said the results of the two-week trial had been impressive.
“The technology being considered could reduce inspection times by identifying and informing the inspector where a threat, such as a live pest, is located on a container,” the spokesman said.
The cameras, which scan the container from multiple angles in just four seconds, analysed more than 1.7 million images of containers during the fortnight, with 4 per cent of containers having pests that needed to be removed.
Trellis Data’s product manager James Meszes said the technology had the potential to be expanded to other port or freight facilities across the country.
“It’s about taking something that is near impossible as a human, to be able to detect small objects while containers are being constantly being moved, while also dealing with rain and sun glare and rust on the containers,” Mr Meszes said.
“This technology is there to assist and provide assurance that every container can be scanned at every crane at every port, and it’s there to work side-by-side with people.
“The Department of Agriculture is only able to inspect about 3 per cent of all goods manually, so the cameras can help to solve this problem.”
The new camera technology comes just after a khapra beetle outbreak hit parts of Canberra in November of 2020.
The invasive beetle species was discovered in a shipment of fridges, which forced the closure of several Good Guys stores in the capital, as biosecurity officers sought to prevent the pest from spreading.
Mr Meszes said the camera technology could help to save 100,000 hours of effort every year for the Department of Agriculture.
“We’ve structured it so it can be trained and improved upon, so if there was a pest that was an issue overseas, and there are some photos taken of it, those images can be used to identify it at every port that Australia has, so that capability is also in place,” Meszes said. “This is something that machine learning is perfect for, and we can only improve as it goes down the line […] these are pests that hard to spot, but this can do it in real time.”
“At the end of the day, we want to be able to protect Australia and its agriculture industry.”
Dedicated departmental biosecurity officers located at DP World Australia’s Brisbane Terminal for the duration of the trial will inspect a selection of Country Action List (CAL) and non-CAL sea containers to verify the accuracy of captured images.
The BATDS trial will commence on Tuesday, 14 June 2022 and will continue for approximately 6 months.
If successful, this technology could allow the department to screen more containers and only intervene on those with an identified biosecurity risk. This would be a more efficient screening process and reduce unnecessary delays for importers of goods arriving in clean containers.
All CAL containers (excluding exempt transhipping containers) unloading at DP World Australia’s Brisbane Terminal will be externally inspected by a biosecurity officer as part of this trial, according to established procedures. Any BRM detected during these inspections will be compared to the images taken by the BATDS camera for verification purposes.
A number of non-CAL containers may also be randomly selected for external inspection during the trial. Stakeholders can expect a minimal delay in the release of non-CAL containers if they are selected for inspection. These containers will have a ‘Terminal Hold’ applied and a ‘Held’ Terminal Status visible in 1-Stop. Where a ‘Terminal Hold’ is in place, the containers are unable to be moved off wharf, so transport should not be arranged until the ‘Terminal Hold’ has been removed. These non-CAL container inspections will not attract a charge unless contamination or BRM is detected and mitigation measures are required.
For enquiries regarding non-CAL containers unloaded at DP World Brisbane with a ‘Held’ Terminal Status can be directed to DP World Brisbane’s VBS Coordinator by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on (07) 3895 9360.
For general enquiries about the BATDS trial please contact the department by email at BATDS@awe.gov.au.