Tens of thousands of jobs in the car retailing industry are at risk as three ships float aimlessly in the Pacific.

The car carriers have been turned away from New Zealand ports after hundreds of marmorated stink bugs were found on board.

The pest has the potential to destroy the country's fruit and vegetable industry.

No facility in New Zealand can effectively treat the infested ships.

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Vehicle Importers Association chief executive David Vinsen says the car industry understands the danger to agriculture and MPI has done the right thing, but he says it's causing a huge problem for his industry, which at this time of the year imports about 12,000 vehicles a month.

Vinsen says a disruption like this, even of one to two weeks, has enormous consequences and he's worried about the jobs of tens of thousands of people who process and sell those vehicles.

Three ships, carrying cars from Japan, have all been turned around at New Zealand ports in the past week.

Vinsen says one has headed to Brisbane but has been told it can't berth in Australia either.

He says the car industry and shipping companies need to know quickly what happens now.

The brown marmorated stink bug

• The pest is a voracious eater of horticulture produce including apples, grapes and tomatoes

• A wide range of crops would be unmarketable if damaged by the bug. In the US some growers have reported crop losses of up to 95 per cent

• It is resistant to many insecticides, making it difficult and expensive to control

• When it gets cold, the stink bug bunches up in dark spaces in homes making it a major public nuisance