International Phytosanitary Measures 15 (ISPM15) is an international standard for the treatment of wooden packaging to help prevent the spread of pests and ultimately, protect international forest health and biodiversity.
Why it matters now?
ISPM15 is an important consideration for wooden packaging specifiers now the UK has left the EU customs union and single market. Previously, pallets and other wooden packaging materials moving between EU member states and the UK were exempt from following ISPM15 rules. But once the UK officially began life outside the EU customs union and single market on 1 January 2021, this changed and companies exporting goods in wooden packaging from the UK to the EU are now obliged to be fully ISPM15 compliant.
What do the rules say?
To achieve compliance, the ISPM15 standard stipulates that wood packaging material has to undergo one of a number of approved phytosanitary treatments (as prescribed in Annex 1) that significantly reduce the risk and spread of pest introduction. Importantly, irrespective of the type of treatment applied, the wood packaging material used must be made of debarked wood (with a specified tolerance for remaining bark). The treatment options are:
- Heat treatment using a conventional steam or dry kiln heat chamber (the most commonly accepted method)
- Heat treatment using dielectric heating
- Methyl bromide treatment
- Sulphuryl fluoride treatment
Importantly, not all of these treatments are permitted for use and/or recommended by certain countries. It is important to check the regulations carefully and verify in advance with your packaging provider that the method of treatment applied to your wood packaging is suitable for its proposed route of travel (as defined in ISPM15 Global Exporters Guide – TIMCON)
Once the wood has been treated, it is stamped or branded with the internationally recognized International Plant Protection Convention IPPC mark (as prescribed in Annex 2), which details the method used to treat the wood and its country of origin, making it readily identifiable.
Are pallets being checked for ISPM15 compliance at borders right now?
For now, reports indicate there is limited checking of ISPM15 accreditation on pallets arriving from the UK. That said, this is obviously a fluid situation and we continue to advise firms to fully comply with the regulations given they are a legal requirement.
What could happen if my package is stopped?
The potential penalties for non-compliance with the rules are significant. Where wood packaging material is found not to carry the required mark, or the detection of pests provides evidence that the treatment may not have been effective, your package could be detained by border officials, pending possible retreatment, disposal or reshipment.
What is the situation in Northern Ireland?
In line with the UK’s commitment to giving Northern Irish businesses unfettered access to the rest of the UK’s internal market after we left the EU, wooden packaging material moved from Northern Ireland to Great Britain by NI businesses does NOT need to comply with ISPM15 regulations.
Conversely however, given Ireland’s status as a single epidemiological unit, wooden packaging moving from GB to Northern Ireland WILL need to be treated and appropriately marked in compliance with ISPM15 standards, but not when moving between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. More guidance on these rules can be found here.
Heat treated vs kiln-dried pallets
Kiln drying differs from heat treatment in that it is used solely to reduce moisture content in wood rather than eradicate pests. Kiln drying is effectively a curing process, whereby timber or pallets and packaging are stacked inside kilns and then heated slowly to evaporate excess moisture. It is predominantly used to reduce susceptibility to mould and decay, limit shrinkage upon delivery to users, make products lighter and easier to move and ultimately, maximise product strength. Importantly, while ISPM15 requirements can be met during the kiln drying process, kiln drying alone does not ensure ISPM15 compliance.
Importantly, it should be remembered that ISPM15 is not a drying process. Any users who are particularly concerned about moisture and ISPM15 should always seek out ‘kiln dried heat treated’ products.
Our advice to customers
We understand these continue to be challenging times for our customers as they look to mitigate the ongoing impact of the pandemic on their operations. What’s more, there continues to be significant pressure on the pricing and availability of wooden packaging in the UK and beyond as a result of multiple factors influencing supply and demand of timber across the globe.
As things stand, it is difficult to say just how enforcement of the ISPM15 regulations might evolve over the coming months but thanks to our longstanding strategic partnerships with timber suppliers both here and overseas, we are well placed to offer customers continuity of supply to meet their ISPM15 packaging needs across the coming year and beyond.
Given the wider uncertainties in the market right now however, we would urge all customers to consider their future buying requirements as early as possible to ensure their needs can be met with the minimum interruption.
In the meantime, we will continue to update customers on the issue as developments occur…