On the surface, providing pest control on a ship might seem like a run-of-the-mill job for a qualified pest control professional, but there is a lot of risk that needs to be evaluated and mitigated. In this blog post we ask one of our experts to tell us more.
At Rentokil, we’ve had the privilege of partnering with all types of customers on all kinds of jobs through the years. To name a few; we’ve helped repel birds at Buckingham Palace and provided pest control at the Post Office Tower (1966), we helped Libya tackle the Bubonic plague (2009) and we’ve assisted with pest control at the Beijing and Rio Olympics (2008 and 2016). Learn more about our history.
We’ve also left the safety of our shores to work with cruise ships and cargo ships globally and in South Africa. Because providing pest control on board a vessel has some specific risks that need to be evaluated, we decided to interview Armand Bruneau, our Regional Business Manager for the KwaZulu-Natal & Mozambique Region, to tell us a little more about ship treatments.
Q: Tell us about your life at Rentokil.
I started with Rentokil in August 1995 as a Pest Control Officer at Rentokil Empangeni, and I was promoted to Branch Supervisor in 1998. Six years later I was promoted to Operations Manager and then moved to Rentokil Durban as a Branch Manager. In 2012 I was appointed Regional Business Manager for KZN and in 2014 I got involved with the acquisition that established our Mozambican business.
Q: How long have you and the KZN team been involved with ship treatments?
The KwaZulu-Natal team started ship treatments in 2018 after working very closely with our global colleagues, especially those in Australia and New Zealand. The pest of interest and specifically earmarked for treatment was the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) – because at that time BMSB had been found to be present in 44 countries and the damage it causes to crops extended to a value of $21 million.
A lot of research, consultation, and training is conducted before we step onto a ship. There are numerous health and safety considerations and we need to be meticulous in our choice of treatment as one can employ fogging, heat treatment or fumigation with Sulfuryl Fluoride.
Q: What are some of the technical and health and safety risks that need to be mitigated when doing this work?
Working at sea is generally high risk. With health and safety as our number one priority, we ensure that all colleagues earmarked for ship work undergo a 2 day ‘boarding at sea’ practical training course and certification before being allowed to treat vessels.
These colleagues also need to be registered Pest Control Officers or have an accredited PMA qualification. It is also very important that our staff follow the standard operating procedures and are able to treat the vessel.
There are other special requirements that our colleagues need to adhere to that involve the use of life jackets whilst going out to sea and returning back to base, as well as following all safety protocols as advised by the authorities on board.
In terms of working on the vessel, our colleagues are required to use full face masks during application of the treatment, as well as safety shoes, ear plugs, and overalls.
The environment on board involves other risks in terms of slips, trips and falls, as well as working in enclosed spaces and the use of ladders – sometimes in poorly lit areas.
Another risk is the risk of fire hazard due to using equipment which could result in fire or burns. Hence the team needs to be highly skilled to avoid accidents as well as potential damage to very expensive cargo.
Q: How big is the team that works on a shipping treatment?
Every ship treatment requires at least 10 highly trained Rentokil colleagues who work under the constant supervision of their team leaders.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of a ship treatment?
The embarking and disembarking of the vessel is the most challenging and the most dangerous part of the treatment. It is also challenging to get to the vessels from time to time due to weather – and the travel time can be taxing on the team.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of this service?
Teamwork is the most important and rewarding part of the treatment.
Being the pioneer of this type treatment makes the team proud. This is supported by reports that our treated vessels are clear of BMSB and have passed their post treatment inspections, which means that they will be allowed entry into various ports around the world.
We also get to work with our colleagues and their customers from many different countries, further reinforcing teamwork and a great sense of camaraderie.
Q: What has been the most memorable ship treatment you’ve been involved in?
The most challenging ship treatment we have conducted was approximately 25km out at sea. The vessel was called Aisan Parade (I will never forget that name) and soon after completing the treatment, late that afternoon, the weather conditions became unfavourable. Our team weren’t able to disembark or return to shore due to the extremely dangerous conditions caused by rough seas.
After careful consideration between the Master of the Vessel (Captain) and the Launch Boat Captain, it was agreed that our team would stay overnight on the ship – completely unprepared. The Master of the Vessel provided our team with cabins to sleep in, facilities to shower and freshen up in, a hearty meal and even a midnight snack! Our team were really well looked after and the following morning at 06.00 they were transferred by the launch boat safely back to port.
We are grateful for the Master of the Vessel and the Crew’s hospitality, and happy that we could deliver a service that would assist the next port.
Whether you need a pest control treatment for your home, your office, or even a ship contact us for your obligation free pest assessment.