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Web Alert: Compliance with ISPM 15

26 July 2019

The club has come across a few cases where the ships on a voyage from South Africa to the USA were refused entry in the port on the grounds of non-compliance of wood packaging materials with the ISPM 15. The financial losses arising from such non-compliance and refusal of entry were substantial.

ISPM 15 is the acronym used for 'International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures Publication No. 15: Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade'. The full text of this standard is available from the International Phytosanitary Portal.

Under the ISPM 15, the wood packaging used in international trade needs to be treated prior exporting. Its main purpose is to prevent the international transport and spread of disease and insects that could negatively affect plants or ecosystems.

The ISPM 15 standard allows for two treatment options of wood products:

  1. Heat Treatment (HT): Wood packaging material should be heated in a schedule that achieves a minimum core temperature of 56 degrees celsius for a minimum of 30 minutes. The American Lumber Standards Committee (ALSC) administers the US certification program for heat treatment.

  2. Methyl Bromide (MB) Fumigation: The wood packaging material should be fumigated with methyl bromide. The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) has been tasked by the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to administer the fumigation program.


ISPM 15 affects all wood packaging material (pallets, crates, dunnages, etc.) requiring that they be debarked and then heat treated or fumigated with methyl bromide and stamped or branded, with a mark of compliance. The presence of an ISPM 15 compliant stamp or mark on dunnage certifies that the timber bearing the mark has been subjected to an ISPM 15 approved measure (or treatment). Products exempt from the ISPM 15 are made from alternative material, like paper, plastic or wood panel products (ie OSB, hardboard, and plywood).

In South Africa, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) through Directorate: Inspection Services is responsible for the registration and auditing of treatment providers and manufacturers of wood packaging materials. The DAFF has invited the members of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders to work with them to ensure that all wood packaging materials destined for export comply with the ISPM 15 standard. A copy of the invitation containing the Directorate: Inspection Services’ contact details is attached.

As dunnage plays an integral role during the loading, transportation and discharging of several cargoes, members are recommended to ensure that the wood packaging of the consignment is under ISPM 15 regulations.