What're ISPM 15?


The rise of global trade and travel has brought forth a wealth of benefits and opportunities, but like all good things, there are also some drawbacks. One of the most frustrating of which is the spread of pests and other invasive species. Many countries and their companies use wooden shipping containers or wooden organizational units to ship their goods. The trouble is that many pests frequent such wooden materials, leading to them often sneaking along during transport and infiltrating the new port countries to the detriment of its residents.

The ISPM—or International Standards of Phytosanitary Measures—is a unique set of standards put forth by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) with the aim of significantly reducing and ideally eliminating all wood-borne pests. The ISPM dictate standards for treating any and all solid wood packaging materials utilized in international trade, including proper pallet fumigation under ISPM 15.

The Right Wood and the Preferred Solid Wood Treatment Options

The first important aspect all exporters need to know is that these standards apply only to solid wood packaging materials. Manufactured wood products, such as plywood, oriented strand board, and particle board are not included in this regulation. Instead, each country is responsible for drafting and administering their own specific regulations for such manufactured wood products (for US states and territories, this is done by the American Lumber Standards Committee). 

Second, ISPM 15 requires those packaging materials—pallets, crates, and dunnage—comprised of solid wood to undergo either debarking and heat treatment or fumigation with methyl bromide.Which treatment a company or country prefers will often depend upon the type of goods being shipped and transit route.

  • Heat Treatment or HT: This treatment option requires all wood to be debarked, meaning all bark, including that found in the wane area, is not acceptable and requires removal. Once debarked, the wood packaging materials get heated to a minimum wood core temperature of 56 degrees Celsius for at least 30 minutes.
  • Pallet Fumigation: The alternative form of commercial pest control allowable by the ISPM 15 is fumigation with methyl bromide. 

Once the wood packaging materials have undergone the requisite pallet fumigation or heating treatment, they must be stamped or branded with an appropriate IIPC mark. The IIPC mark is a standardized and internationally-recognized marking system in which symbols are used to represent the treated materials’ origin code, the regulating agency that oversees that materials’ manufacturer, certification number of the treatment provider, the type of treatment provided, and whether or not the solid wood materials is being used for dunnage. 

Skipping Out Can Be Expensive

It is extremely important for companies exporting and importing goods to ensure all wood packaging is in proper compliance with ISBM-15. Puerto Rico operates under the U.S. umbrella rules that stipulate any wood packaging materials that come to the country without proper stamping must be returned to the home country with the shipper allowed to charge premium rates. Any non-compliant shipment that leaves Puerto Rico and arrives at another country will either be returned (if it has not left customs custody), undergo pallet fumigation upon arrival with extra charges, or even potentially incinerated and buried. In summary, it’s best for everyone to ensure proper ISBM compliance from the get-go.

Repairing and Reusing IPPC Marked Packaging From Another Manufacturer

Cost-conscious business owners and shippers can be thrifty and reuse certified wood packaging they received as long as no components are removed or replaced. However, if there is a need for repairs, even those simple ones like replacing a board or adding new wooden supports, then re-treatment via kiln or pallet fumigation will be necessary. This can either be done via a certified heat treatment facility or a commercial pest control company. Once the repaired or upgraded wooden packaging materials has been properly treated, it will be re-branded with a new IPPC marking.

Don’t Get Bugged Down by Bugs

Puerto Rico has a beautiful, yet delicate ecosystem. Invasive pests like the Asian citrus psyllid can—and have—decimated key natural and agricultural regions on our island. It is imperative for those companies who import or export goods to have their products packaged to meet but ideally exceed ISBM acceptance standards. Keep pests and invasive insects to a minimum and keep your company strong by choosing only wood packaging materials from reliable, qualified manufacturers and having them appropriately treated by certified kilns and commercial pest control companies. 

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