ISPM 15 - Backgrounds and Current Challenges

By Nicolas Gabriel, Divisional Director, Battermann & Tillery, IUMI Professional Partner, /

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The directive, ISPM 15 (International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures), aims to minimise the risk of the introduction and spread of pests associated with wood packaging material in international trade. All timber treated in accordance with ISPM 15 is marked accordingly by registered companies performing the treatment.

Shipments may be refused entry if irregularities are found regarding ISPM 15. The reasons for refusal are generally a lack of or incorrect labelling, or the presence of live insects or their larvae, despite the ISPM 15 labelling.

In the case of the USA, the entire shipment is usually barred from entering the country. Inspections and rejections of import shipments in the USA have increased considerably in recent months. This is particularly true if live, fresh wood insects are found. As a result, cargo interests sometimes incur considerable additional costs. Furthermore, the USA has imposed heavy penalties for non-compliance with ISPM 15. As such, even a single violation can result in costs amounting to millions of dollars. The decision is usually made by a single official and is not always comprehensible or clearly documented.

The infestation of packaging timber with fresh wood insects is not considered transport-related and thus not covered by a standard cargo insurance policy. Furthermore, in case of a problem, the shipper will generally hold the packing company liable, which may result in the involvement of business liability insurance.

In the event of a claim, it must be proven that the treatment was carried out properly. This is not possible by inspecting the wood itself. When selecting a supplier of wood or packaging services, criteria such as a well-documented treatment process, full traceability as well as quality level of the timber are of vital importance. Furthermore, contracts with the packaging suppliers should be reviewed regarding the issue of liability.

It is urgently recommended that shippers develop effective strategies in order to comply with current legislation. Choosing the right partner is most definitely of paramount importance.