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Everything You Need To Know About ISPM 15

16 Jul 2018

The new ISPM 15 standard is currently being rolled out around the world. Not heard of it? Unless you are involved with distribution or exports, that isn’t surprising. So the first thing you need to learn from a guide to ISPM 15 is: what is it?

It’s a set of phytosanitary measures. Phytosanitary, meaning relating to the health of plants, is the key to everything you need to know about ISPM 15. It relates to living plants but also to items made from plant materials. This is vital to the distribution industry, which relies heavily on wooden pallets, crates, cable spools and so on.

ispm 15

Regulations and Marks

As part of a guide to ISPM 15 therefore you need to know that pests and diseases can be carried between countries on wood products. Under the regulations any pallets or other wooden packaging materials crossing international frontiers need to have been treated to eliminate pests and disease and must be marked to show that this has been done.

Different countries have different regulations to comply with ISPM 15, so it’s important to understand the rules of the country you are dealing with. These may require some physical action on the part of the exporter as well as a physical official inspection of the shipment along with its paperwork.

Note that the rules don’t apply to processed materials like plywood or chipboard or to cardboard. Within the EU there is a plant passport scheme that allows materials made of conifer wood to pass relatively unhindered. Kiln-dried timber needs to be marked with the letters KD.


In order to comply with ISPM 15, timber needs to be treated. This usually involved removal of bark – as many pests like beetles live close to the surface of the tree – followed by heat treatment or fumigation. Treatment can be done in a number of ways, including kiln drying, mobile heat treatment carried out in a portable chamber or fumigation using Methyl Bromide. This can also be carried out in portable facilities like containers or tents.

Once it has been treated, timber must be marked to show the type of treatment that it has received. If a pallet or crate is repaired using new timber, then it has to be re-treated before it can be used again.

You’ll have gathered from this guide to ISPM 15 that the regulation is important to prevent infections travelling across frontiers. We’ve given you an overview of everything you need to know about ISPM 15, but if you need to find out more the UK government has a useful website setting of the rules for this country, and it has some links that can help you find out the rules for other countries you’re dealing with.

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