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ISPM15 compliance issues threaten exports

Goods exported on wood packaging material (WPM) could be at risk of being seized following a recent incident in China.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) in China is intercepting export consignments from Europe because articles of WPM (pallets, crates, etc.) are being found to have country codes within the ISPM15 mark that do not relate to the country of re-export, according to Pallet Link – the UK’s pallet and packaging advisory association.

The Forestry Commission Plant Health Service was alerted to this issue by a major international freight forwarding company following an incident in which a German (DE) marked pallet which had been air-freighted to China from Austria (AT) was deemed to be non-compliant.

This incident appears to be a result of a ‘difference of opinion’ over the guidance for re-use of WPM. The ISPM15 regulations indicate that re-treatment and re-marking of WPM is only required when shipping from one country to another if the WPM has been repaired, but Chinese AQSIQ officials are arguing that WPM must be re-treated and re-marked in the country of re-export, regardless of the original treatment and markings.

Jim Hardisty, Managing Director of Goplasticpallets.com, commented: "Failure to comply with the internationally-recognised ISPM15 heat treatment standards can be costly for exporters using wooden pallets. Non-compliance can lead to confiscated goods, missed delivery deadlines, and in some instances hefty fines. Goods exported on wooden pallets can be stopped if the pallet’s ISPM15 mark is scuffed, if the pallet has surface blemishes, if it’s been repaired and not retreated, and following this incident, wooden pallets can also be intercepted if the ISPM15 marking does not relate to the country of re-export.

"There is a simple answer to the ISPM15 chaos: use plastic pallets. With international shipping costs to the US and Asia running at well over £2,000 per 1,000kg pallet, it makes sense to invest an extra £2 or £3 per pallet – often a tiny fraction of the value of the goods being exported – and buy plastic."

Whilst the UK National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) is liaising with the European Commission with a view to raising the matter as a challenge through Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) or bilateral processes, UK WPMMP members are advised to inform their exporting clients that their consignments could be intercepted by AQSIQ inspectors if the ISPM15 mark on the WPM does not relate to the country of re-export.

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