Finding ‘aliens’ at the Port of Baltimore

David Ng and his team at the Port of Baltimore are on the frontline of homeland security there, inspecting cargo for stowaways. In the last month, Ng, supervisor of Baltimore’s Customs and Border Protection Agricultural Unit, and his agents have intercepted two “alien invaders” trying to slip into the country in a container. The agents apprehended them with their weapon of choice — tweezers.

While we generally associate Homeland Security with guys in jack boots running around in fast boats (at least I do), the CPB Agriculture Specialists do serious work to protect the U.S. from invasive species of plants and animals. The two separate “aliens” found within a month were significant because they were insects that had not shown up before. According to CPB, the two bugs were found in shipments of Italian tile and were both weevils, a potentially dangerous crop-eating invader. The cotton weevil was an introduced species that devastated the South’s economy.

Agricultural specialists unabashedly practice profiling. They look closely at farm and construction machinery cargoes that might bring in dirt and insects on their wheels or tracks. They also look at the wood pallets and packing material for evidence of borers like the emerald ash borer, which has destroyed forests in the Midwest. Shipments of marble and stone from Europe also get a close look from the inspectors who use magnifying glasses to find the tiny bugs.

It is remarkable that the Baltimore team found not one but two new invaders recently and they deserve far more recognition than they get for their rigorous and important work.


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About the author

Kathy Bergren Smith

Kathy Bergren Smith has been a correspondent with WorkBoat since 2002. She is also a writer and photographer for the Port of Baltimore Magazine covering shipping and port activities. Smith, also a noted commercial and fine art photographer, resides in Annapolis, Md.

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