An overview of ISPM-15



What is ISPM-15?

ISPM-15 (International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15) pertains to the requirements for wood packaging crossing international boundaries. It is an International Phytosanitary Measure which is undertaken by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). ISPM-15 addresses the international shipment of solid wood materials that are thicker than 6 mm. It can be met through approved heat treatment and fumigation treatment. Other emerging treatments include dielectric heat as well as steam and vacuum.

The main purpose of ISPM-15 is to prevent the spread of insects and disease that could have a negative impact on plants and ecosystems as a result of solid wood packaging used in the international transport of goods. It covers vessels, aircraft, vehicles, containers, storages areas, soil and other materials and objects that can spread and harbor pests. The IPPC ISPM-15 standard is undertaken by the recommendations of many member countries that have found the origin of harmful pests in the transportation of non-fumigated or non-heat-treated solid wood packaging.

Understanding treatment requirements for solid wood packaging, such as wood pallets and packaging, including recycled or refurbished units can prevent the inconvenience and cost of having your shipment quarantined at international ports of entry. 

The basis of the issue is that pests can be harbored in untreated solid wood, and when shipped internationally, they can devastate ecosystems in other parts of the world. The ISPM-15 is a control system designed to mitigate the threat of non-native pests moving internationally.

Which materials are required to comply with the ISPM-15 standard and which are exempt from it?

ISPM-15 standard rules affect both wood and wooden packaging materials such as dunnage, crates, reels, collars and pallets. Items such as wood bracing must also comply. On the other hand, alternative materials such as plastic, paper, metal and even wood panel products (engineered wood) such as plywood, hardboard, OSB are exempt from maintaining ISPM-15 standard. Also consider that shipping or transporting wood or wooden products within a single country is exempt from this requirement. Again, ISPM-15 standard is applicable only for the countries which adhere to the IPPC guidelines.

For a list of participating countries, see this list.

How to maintain ISPM-15 compliance?

Under ISPM-15 standard, all solid wood and wood packaging materials (WPM) over 6 mm in thickness used for export such as wooden pallets, dunnage and crating must be treated. In the heat treatment process, WPM must be heated until its internal temperature reaches 56 degree Celsius or more for 30 minutes. This is regarded as most effective and environmentally friendly way to destroy harmful pests from wood. With fumigation being phased out as a treatment option, others, such as dielectric or microwave heating are being looked at as possible solutions.

Heat treatment, however, is the solid wood packaging industry standard practice as of this time. 

After the fumigation or heating treatment, WPM is stamped or branded with the internationally recognized IPPC mark. The treatment method used and country of origin of WPM is also indicated by the mark. Included in this article is an example of an IPPC mark used in Canada.

In order to ensure compliance with the ISPM-15 program, participants must work with an approved third party inspection agency.

What about ISPM-15 requirements for trade between Canada and USA?

Both Canada and USA are members of IPPC and have adopted ISPM-15 regulations to maintain international obligations. Therefore, international shipment or any other transportation of WPM must be treated and marked with the IPPC mark. Pallets, crating or any other WPM that are shipped back and forth between Canada and the USA, however, are exempt from ISPM-15 requirements, while in the case of transporting these materials from Canada or the US to any other countries, ISPM-15 rules do apply.

North American businesses are concerned that ISPM-15 standard will likely come into effect for Canada-US cross-border pallet movements, at some point. While it was anticipated that the exemption would be waived in 2016 or 2017, the timeline for an enactment of ISPM-15 between Canada and the U.S. remains uncertain as of this time.

From an environmental perspective, broader application of ISPM-15 requirements to cover the Canada-US trade corridor will help ensure environmental protection, but the cost of heat treatment or alternative material pallets would be absorbed by supply chain participants.