Biological Invasions

, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 2837–2850 | Cite as

Biosecurity risk factors presented by international vessels: a statistical analysis

  • Sandy Clarke
  • Tracey Hollings
  • Nianjun Liu
  • Greg Hood
  • Andrew Robinson
Original Paper


Invasive non-indigenous species are among the greatest threats to global biodiversity. Shipping is the principal vector for international dispersal of nonindigenous species, and shipping rates are increasing globally. The Australian government performs a range of regulatory actions to mitigate biosecurity risks associated with marine vessels, and in so doing has amassed a large volume of operational inspection data. This data can be used to quantitatively examine risk factors of vessels failing biosecurity procedures after arriving from international ports, the nature of biosecurity failures, and the types and seizure rates of biosecurity risk material (BRM). Classification trees with gradient boosting were used to assess characteristics that predict high risk vessels (n = 93,006) for carrying BRM, across 7 years of inspection data. Undeclared vessels and suspected irregular entry vessels posed the highest risk, but both were rare. Vessels that visit infrequently (<20 visits in 7 years) were common and had almost three times greater odds of failing inspection than vessels visiting frequently. On statistical analysis, yachts appeared to pose less risk than commercial vessels. In operational terms, a tentative profiled 20% fraction would contain 57% of genuine failures, and the concomitant non-screened group would contain 82% of passes. The most common reason for inspection failures was ballast water non-compliance (2.53%) and plant or insect detections (1.77%); biofouling was less common (0.13%) but testing for biofouling is not exhaustive. Invertebrate species comprised almost 90% of invasive organisms detected and seized from vessels failing biosecurity inspections. This study targets an entire transportation vector, which includes many pathways. Understanding the characteristics of transport vectors is pivotal to characterising the risk of biological invasions and applying adequate controls and prevention strategies. Our results show that biosecurity risk is not uniform on maritime pathways, so there is considerable scope for biosecurity regulators to impose risk-based intervention.


Vessels Biosecurity Invasive species Shipping Marine Australia Risk Classification trees 



The authors would like to thank the Australian Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) for providing the data and motivation for this study. This research was supported by the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis, University of Melbourne.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Statistical Consulting CentreUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk AnalysisUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Agriculture and Water ResourcesCanberraAustralia

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