ISPM 15 Wood Packaging: A Guide for Importers and Exporters

ISPM 15 Wood Packaging: A Guide for Importers and Exporters

ISPM 15 wood packaging

When it comes to international shipping, compliance with regulations is key to ensuring smooth and efficient transport of goods. One such critical regulation is ISPM 15, which pertains to wood packaging material, including wooden pallets and crates.

In this blog, we’ll define what the regulation means, the role of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its development, the process of heat treatment for wood packaging, ISPM 15 exemptions, the responsibilities of importers and exporters and why staying informed about these regulations is crucial for avoiding shipping delays and cancellations.

What does ISPM stand for?

ISPM stands for International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures. The regulation specifically deals with guidelines for regulating wood packaging material in international trade to prevent the spread of pests and diseases.

Wood packaging material, specifically pallets or “dunnage,” is frequently made of raw wood that may not have undergone sufficient processing or treatment to remove or kill pests. Therefore, it remains a pathway for the introduction and spread of quarantine pests. It’s often reused, repaired or remanufactured, making its phytosanitary status difficult to determine.

For this reason, ISPM 15 is essential for ensuring that wood packaging used in shipping does not become a conduit for harmful organisms that could disrupt ecosystems in different parts of the world.

The origin and mission of ISPM 15

The ISPM 15 standard was developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), which operates under the umbrella of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The FAO’s mission is to achieve food security for all and ensure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. In line with this mission, ISPM 15 helps protect the world’s forests and agricultural resources from invasive pests by regulating the use of wood packaging materials.

Heat treatment for ISPM 15 wood packaging material

One of the primary methods for ensuring compliance with ISPM 15 is heat treatment. This process involves heating the wood to a minimum core temperature of 56 degrees Celsius (132.8 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 30 minutes. This treatment effectively eliminates pests and pathogens, ensuring that the wood packaging material is safe for international transport. Once treated, the wood is stamped with the ISPM 15 mark, indicating that it meets the required standards.

How to obtain the ISPM 15 stamp

To obtain an ISPM 15 mark, also known as an IPPC mark, indicating that the wood meets the required standards, the following steps must be followed:

  1. 1. Heat Treatment: Ensure that the wood packaging material undergoes heat treatment or other approved treatments, such as methyl bromide fumigation. This treatment must be conducted by a certified treatment provider.
  2. 2. Certification: Use a certified treatment facility that is authorized to perform the treatment and apply the ISPM 15 mark. The facility must follow strict guidelines to ensure the wood is treated effectively.
  3. 3. Stamping: Once the wood has been properly treated, it must be stamped with the ISPM 15 mark and conform to the requirements described in Annex 2 of the ISPM 15 guidance. This mark typically includes the IPPC symbol, the country code, a unique treatment facility code and the treatment method code (e.g., HT for heat treatment or MB for methyl bromide fumigation).
  4. 4. Documentation: Maintain records of the treatment and certification for verification and compliance purposes. These records may be required during inspections by regulatory authorities.

ISPM 15 exemptions

While ISPM 15 applies to most wood packaging materials, there are certain exemptions. Wood packaging made entirely of processed wood products, such as plywood, particleboard or oriented strand board, are typically exempt because these materials have already undergone processes that destroy pests. Additionally, packaging materials made from thin wood (6 mm or less in thickness) are also exempt from ISPM 15 regulations.

Additional exempt articles can be found in section 2.1 of the ISPM guidance.

Responsibilities of importers and exporters

Both importers and exporters play critical roles in ensuring that wood packaging materials comply with ISPM 15 guidelines:


  • Source Compliant Materials: Exporters must ensure that all wood packaging materials used in their shipments are compliant with ISPM 15 standards. This includes sourcing wood that has been properly heat-treated and stamped with the ISPM 15 mark.
  • Documentation: Proper documentation must be maintained to prove that the wood packaging materials have been treated and comply with ISPM 15. This documentation should be readily available for inspection by regulatory authorities.
  • Regular Inspections: Exporters should conduct regular inspections of their wood packaging materials to ensure ongoing compliance and address any issues before shipping.


  • – Verify Compliance: Importers must verify that all wood packaging materials entering their country comply with ISPM 15. This involves checking for the ISPM 15 mark and ensuring that the wood has been properly treated.
  • Stay Informed: Importers should stay updated on any changes to ISPM 15 regulations and ensure their suppliers are aware of and comply with the latest standards.
  • Report Non-Compliance: If any non-compliant wood packaging materials are identified, importers must report this to the relevant authorities to prevent the entry of potentially harmful pests and pathogens.

Addressing non-compliance at the point of entry

At the point of entry, if wood packaging materials are inspected, an Emergency Action Notice will be taken. The cargo/container will be detained, and arrangements must be made within a short time frame to resolve the issue. The non-compliant wood must be promptly separated from the product and exported back to its country of origin within the timeline specified by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists. However, this process can quickly escalate into a costly and labor-intensive endeavor, leading to unnecessary expenses and delays in the delivery of the intended goods.

Stay compliant and avoid delays with Ascent Global Logistics

For importers and exporters, understanding and complying with ISPM 15 is crucial to prevent shipping delays, cancellations and additional costs. Non-compliant shipments can be rejected or quarantined, causing significant disruptions to your supply chain. Therefore, it’s vital to ensure that all wood packaging materials used in international shipping meet ISPM 15 standards.

To learn more about our logistics solutions and how we can help you navigate international shipping regulations, visit our International Freight Forwarding page. Our team is here to support you in ensuring smooth and compliant shipments across the globe.


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