If you’ve ever had a pest control problem in your home, then you understand the value of a professional exterminator–someone who can get rid of those unwelcomed inhabitants. Now suppose you had a bigger pest control problem, one which encompasses the forests of an entire nation instead of a two or three story home. Unfortunately, this is today’s reality for many countries, including the U.S.

Non-native species such as the Asian Longhorn Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer hitch rides to the U.S. on wood packaging material in cargo ships and airplanes and proceed to infest and devastate forests all over America. According to the USDA, between 2003, when it was discovered, to 2011, the Emerald Ash Borer has forced over 50 million trees to be cut down to prevent the infestation from spreading.

This is why many countries, the U.S. included, regulate imported wood packaging material (WPM). In the U.S. for example, if your WPM does not comply with certain standards or is suspected of being infected by these pests, it is very likely that you will be required to immediately reexport your shipment or worse–U.S. Customs could destroy your shipment and force you to pay costly penalties.

This is why importers and exporters alike can benefit from establishing shipment packing guidelines that meet the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM 15) for their Wood Packaging Materials used in international trade. Having these guidelines in place can help to prevent shipment delays and additional costs associated with a Customs exam, fumigation, or loss of goods due to destruction.

Overview of ISPM 15
A form of the ISPM 15 standard was first adopted by the International Plant Protection Convention in 2002 to limit the entry and spread of quarantine pests through international trade. Many countries have since incorporated the ISPM 15 standard into their Wood Packaging Material regulations.

ISPM 15 pertains to Wood Packaging Material (WPM) that supports or braces cargo. Examples of Wood Packaging Material include, but are not limited to, pallets, skids, crates, boxes, bins, drums and dunnage. ISPM 15 doesn’t apply to plywood, particle board, or plastic packaging materials.

This Wood Packaging Material must be

  • heat treated or fumigated with methyl bromide
  • identified by the application of a quality/treatment mark

Only a licensed facility, registered with an accredited inspection agency, may apply the quality/treatment mark, which must consist of

  • the agency trademark which is the identifying symbol, logo, or name of the accredited agency
  • the facility identification which is the WPM product manufacturer name, brand or assigned facility number
  • the HT or MB mark
  • the country code which is the two letter ISO country abbreviation
  • the IPPC Approved international symbol for compliant wood packaging material
  • DUN when indication is used for dunnage


High Risk Products
The commodities with the highest risk of WPM being infested with pests are:

  • machinery
  • stone products
  • metal products
  • fruits and vegetables in wooden crates

Recommended Guidelines
Importers and exporters can decrease their chances of pest infestation and non-compliance with ISPM 15 standards by taking a few proactive steps. These include:

  • Providing your manufacturer with information on the ISPM 15 standard (download the most recent version of ISPM 15 here).
  • Including a clause in your contract or purchase order that requires your suppliers to use ISPM 15 compliant wood packing materials.
  • Taking or requesting pictures to confirm that containers and packing materials are pest-free.
  • Providing your suppliers with instructions on how to safeguard crated products from the elements (such avoiding storage outside) to prevent further pest introduction.
  • Considering alternatives to wood packaging materials, such as plywood, etc.

Most current version of ISPM 15

Countries requiring ISPM 15

Wood Packaging Materials FAQ (USDA APHIS)

View photos of U.S. pests of concern and examples of infested WPM (U.S. Customs presentation)

Jim Trubits is Director of Business Development for Mohawk Global Logistics. He is a licensed U.S. Customs broker and certified Customs specialist.

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