A vessel, LCT Ocean Chief was forced to leave after arriving in Port Vila yesterday with a suspected Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) grub found on an excavator shipped from the island of Moso in the northwest coast of Efate. 

LCT Ocean Chief picked up the excavator at Moso when it was returning to Port Vila from Santo yesterday morning, bypassing the rules of the State of Emergency (SoE) that was imposed at the area due to the beetle infestation.

Under the SoE, ships and yachts are not allowed to pass through ports in the emergency zone, unload or offload materials. Moso is part of the SoE Zone.

The Executive Officer (EO) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Forestry and Biosecurity (MALFFB), Alfred Bani, said the authorized officers paroling in the restricted area made attempt to stop the vessel from bringing the excavator to Port Vila but it (vessel) refused to follow advice.

Captain John Fanai said they are not aware of any restrictions concerning the SoE.

The Department of Biosecurity and the Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) ordered the vessel to leave Port Vila water immediately without offloading cargo.

EO Bani conveyed that the Bio-Security and VMF Officers have accompanied the ship back to Moso for clearance yesterday afternoon. 

"The main focus of the current operation is to ensure that the beetle does not spread to other areas.

"The vessel owners must comply with the rules. Ships mus not pass close or visit the ports in the restricted zone to avoid spreading the risk," he said.

The suspected CRB grub was found on the wheels of the excavator. 

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle was initially discovered at Mangaliliu in north-west Efate two months ago and has spread to Gideon’s Landing.

It is a huge public concern if the infestation is not controlled, coconut plantations will be damaged and local communities will suffer economically.

The majority of households throughout Vanuatu depend on the coconut industry for income and livelihood.

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