Quarantine fumigation system operating in Tasmania

Wednesday, 03 August, 2005

Nordiko Quarantine Systems has developed a process that captures and destroys the toxic gas that is used within the shipping industry for its quarantine fumigation procedures. There are now five Nordiko systems operating in Tasmania and the quarantine authorities there have made the use of this type of system compulsory, a move expected to be adopted by other quarantine authorities.

The system development is the result of four years of intensive research that involved the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, awarding it a $110,000 Pilot Commercialisation Project grant. It also worked closely with the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS), the CSIRO and the Department of the Environment and Heritage.

The driving forces in the development included:

  • The shipping industry was searching for a replacement gas for methyl bromide in fumigation to meet the Montreal Protocol targets. Methyl bromide is highly toxic with the tolerance level for humans only five parts per million. It is also a main cause of ozone depletion.
  • Increasing awareness of the dangers of expelling fumigant gases into the atmosphere, especially in the workplace.
  • The need for a more effective form of fumigation in terms of border protection in a world economy that is becoming increasingly globalised.

The problem that confronted Nordiko was the difficulty in finding a replacement for methyl bromide. While its high toxicity makes it dangerous to use, industry wanted to use methyl bromide as it is highly effective, especially when compared with other fumigants such as phosphene which takes longer to work and is not as effective.

Therefore, instead of attempting to find a replacement for methyl bromide it devised a system to safely use this gas and a broad range of other fumigants.

The product developed is designed to commercially recapture and neutralise the gas. After fumigation in closed chambers, extraction units are used to recapture the gas and then it is destroyed. Suitable testing and monitoring procedures are then carried out to ensure fumigant levels meet prescribed standards.

The process makes the use of methyl bromide safer during fumigation, as well as recapturing the gas after fumigation and rendering it harmless. It addresses occupational health and safety and environmental issues and also offers commercial benefits such as speeding up container turnaround times.

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