Buying and importing wood packaging

By John Andrew Shawyer, director, Associated Pallets Ltd.

Transporting goods between different countries isn't always as simple as it may sound. Whether you are importing or exporting goods (for business or personal reasons), there is a strict set of regulations in place. You probably know when you travel on holiday, for example, you are not allowed to carry items such as meat or fruit to foreign destinations, in order to avoid the risk of cross-contamination. But did you know that if you are transporting, or buying, anything in wood packaging that you need to ensure it conforms to a set of international specifications?

Heat-Treating and Fumigation

The legislation is known as International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures 15 (or ISPM15). Essentially, it is a set of standards which must be applied to any wood that is thicker than 6mm and which is being shipped overseas. This means that any packaging, including crates and pallets, needs to be debarked and heat-treated with methyl bromide, which fumigates the wood. The whole purpose of the process is to prevent disease being spread between countries and insects being inadvertently transported – which could have a negative effect on ecosystems. Heat treated pallets and other packaging are much less likely to carry the risk of cross-contamination. The purpose of removing the bark from the wood before it is heat-treated is to make sure that insects cannot infest the wood before the lumber is manufactured.

A New System

New regulations introduced by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures now allow for a new type of heat treating to be used, which is known as dielectric heating. This is a heat treatment using microwaves to get the wood to the right temperature (a minimum of 60°C for a minute). This temperature then needs to be sustained for half an hour for the treatment to be effective. Manufacturers need to be approved by the National Plant Protection Organisation in order to offer this treatment. This can prove a more convenient process for manufacturers, as the heating systems take up less room than the previous ones. The packaging is also less likely to become damaged using this method, as manufacturers don't need to handle or load the wood as much. It is also a quicker process than a traditional heated chamber and needs fewer staff to operate it, so it can bring a whole host of benefits to manufacturers in terms of being more cost-effective and convenient.

Pallets and wooden packaging are among the best ways to transport goods overseas or between countries. Robust, sturdy and reusable, they can contain large amounts of goods, are easy to manoeuvre and stack conveniently due to their shape and size. As one of the most widely used types of transportation material, it is essential that all manufacturers, suppliers, importers and exporters conform to the international legislation surrounding wooden packaging, in order to contain disease and reduce the risk of insect infestation in foreign countries. The processes have been proven to work and provide a clear and coherent system for heat-treating and fumigating wood.

About the author

John Andrew Shawyer has been a director at Associated Pallets Ltd. since 1993. He specialises in all types of pallets and pallets distribution.

 

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