An Overview of ISPM-15

ISPM-15 Requirements and Exemptions


"International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15" (ISPM-15) was created by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) to address the international shipment of potentially contaminated solid wood materials. Its main purpose is to prevent the spread of insects and disease that could have a negative impact on plants and ecosystems as a result of solid wood packaging used in the international transport of goods. The standard covers vessels, aircraft, vehicles, containers, storage areas, soil, and other materials and objects that can spread and harbor pests.

Understanding treatment requirements for solid wood packaging, such as wood pallets and packaging including recycled or refurbished units, can prevent the inconvenience and cost of having your shipment quarantined at international ports of entry. 

Applicable and Exempt Products Under ISPM-15

ISPM-15 is applicable to wood; wood packaging materials such as dunnage, crates, reels, collars, and pallets; and other wooden items such as bracing.

Products that are exempt from the standard include alternative materials such as plastic, paper, metal, and engineered wood products such as plywood, hardboard, and oriented strand board. Also note that shipments occurring within a country are exempt from ISPM-15.

ISPM-15 is applicable only to those countries that adhere to the IPPC guidelines.

ISPM-15 Requirements

According to ISPM-15, all solid wood and wood packaging materials (WPM) over 6 mm in thickness used for export, such as wooden pallets, dunnage and crating, must be treated. In the heat treatment process, WPM must be heated until its internal temperature reaches 56 degrees Celcius or more for 30 minutes. This is regarded as the most effective and environmentally friendly way to destroy harmful pests contained in wood.

As fumigation becomes a less popular treatment option, others such as dielectric or microwave heating, as well as steaming and vacuuming, are being considered possible solutions. However, overall, heat treatment continues to be the industry practice. 

After the wood is treated, it is stamped or branded with the internationally recognized IPPC mark. The treatment method used and country of origin of WPM is also indicated by the mark.

To ensure compliance with the ISPM-15 program, participants must work with an approved third-party inspection agency.

ISPM-15 Compliance Services

There are organizations that help companies ensure their wood packaging used in export shipments meets current ISPM-15 regulations. These organizations may provide inspection services and regulation information, as well as listings to connect those in the industry.

The Northeastern Lumber Manufacturer's Association (NEMLA) offers such services to companies requiring ISPM-15 certification, verification, and stamping of wood packaging used in export shipments. NELMA has provided lumber grading quality control and compliance inspections since 1933. Its website includes a directory for locating suppliers, wholesalers, mills, and products and services; a library of information resources; and a listing of inspection programs.

The Wooden Crates Organization (WCO) is a resource that provides domestic and international listings of companies involved in manufacturing, supplying, and shipping of export wood shipments. In addition to providing information on inspection services, WCO educates companies on the current regulations as well as compliant crating procedures for domestic and international shipping.

ISPM-15 and the United States and Canada

Both Canada and the United States are members of the IPPC and have adopted ISPM-15 regulations to maintain international obligations. Therefore, international shipments or any other transportation of WPM to other countries must be treated and marked with the IPPC mark. However, pallets, crating, or any other WPM that are shipped between Canada and the United States are exempt from the standard.

North American businesses are concerned that at some point ISPM-15 will likely come into effect for Canada-U.S. cross-border pallet movements. While it was anticipated that the exemption would be waived in 2016 or 2017, the timeline for an enactment of ISPM-15 between Canada and the United States continues to remain uncertain.