HUNDREDS of brand-new high-end motor vehicles has been locked in quarantine after arriving at Port Kembla - because of a slow-moving critter that hitched a ride in German luxury.
The Heath snail has been found in the Mercedes-Benz vehicles and as a result about 900 shiny new Mercs have been halted across four ports - Port Kembla, Fremantle, Melbourne and Brisbane.
There are high-speed vehicles among those with the low-speed problem - the shipments include sports cars, hatchbacks, limousines and delivery vehicles.
About 400 of them came in to Port Kembla and are now locked down awaiting removal.
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said the vehicles arrived on board five different vessels from Europe.
The snails were spotted by biosecurity officers during "routine inspections".
The vehicles will now have to be shipped back to their source.
"The department has issued a direction to the person in charge of the goods to export the vehicles from Australian territory," a spokeswoman said.
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"The department has considered all known and approved treatment options to manage the risk onshore and determined that the most appropriate action is to export the vehicles from Australian Territory.
"Prior to export of the vehicles the department is ensuring that the biosecurity risk is being appropriately managed."
Australian Community Media contacted Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, for comment.
The Heath snail (Xerolenta obvia), is understood to exist only in south-eastern Europe and smaller localised populations in North America.
"The Heath snail is a pest of agricultural and environmental significance that are known to feed on a wide variety of crops including alfalfa, lupins, clover, wheat, barley, fruit trees and weeds causing harm to these plants," the Agriculture Department said.
"Establishment in Australia poses a risk of contamination of crops by snail infestations and transmission of plant pathogens which risks damaging the agriculture sector.
"This species may also be infected ... parasites which are not present in Australia [and a risk to livestock (harms animals) and risks damaging the primary production industry."