Ship carrying Tesla electric cars to Australia turned back to China

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Australian authorities are said to have sent a ship carrying Tesla electric cars back to China for processing of what are believed to be biosecurity hazards.

A ship carrying Tesla electric cars has been forced to leave Australia, sent back to Shanghai for cleaning of what is presumed to be a biosecurity hazard such as pests or seeds – as the US car giant prepares to post its best annual sales on record.

Australian customers with Tesla vehicles aboard the Glovis Caravel have been advised the vessel has been “denied entry” into the country and must “return to Shanghai for further processing prior to re-entering an Australian port”.

It is presumed ‘processing’ refers to cleaning of the ship to eliminate biosecurity hazards such as seeds and pests, which may have been deemed by government authorities to threaten Australian agriculture.

The Glovis Caravel is reported to have a capacity of 6500 vehicles, but it is unclear how many cars are currently on the ship, and if all are Teslas.

Social-media reports claim the Glovis Caravel was initially granted entry into Australia, and a selection of vehicles were unloaded, checked for pests, sent to showrooms and delivered to customers before the biosecurity hazard was discovered.

However, online ship trackers show the vessel is now en route back to Shanghai, China.

It comes months after Australian ports were caught in a quarantine crisis, which created a traffic jam of ships anchored offshore or in transit between ports, as cleaning teams raced to check and treat incoming cars for biosecurity hazards.

At one point – as exclusively reported by Drive – more than two-dozen car-carrying vessels carrying an estimated 60,000-plus vehicles were waiting to dock and unload.

“We are actively investigating all available options to get your [vehicle] to you as soon as possible,” Tesla Australia told affected customers in a notice shared by multiple Tesla Model Y SUV buyers on social media.

“This may include reassigning your order to a vehicle from the next batch of production. Further details will be provided in the coming week.”

Drive has contacted the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for more information, and will update this story once a response is received.

It is far from the first time a car-carrying ship has been turned back for cleaning at its port of origin – and nor is it the first time it has occurred for the Glovis Caravel.

In 2018, when carrying cars from Japan, it was ordered to leave New Zealand waters after the crew reported finding close to 600 stink bugs – 12 of them alive – when anchored near Auckland, according to contemporary news reports.

The U-turn forced on one of its transport ships comes as Tesla prepares to post annual sales records in Australia and globally.

The US electric-car giant is on track to deliver close to 50,000 vehicles in Australia in 2023 – while internationally it is poised to cross the 1.8 million deliveries mark, up from 1.3 million last year.

It is due to announce its global delivery results on 2 January 2024, US time – before Australian data is published on 4 January.

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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