Shipment Packaging – What you need to know!

Shipment Packaging – What you need to know!

As briefly mentioned in our previous blog, packaging is a very important factor to consider when shipping goods. This is because the different types of shipment packaging will affect the size, weight and fragility of your goods; however wooden packaging is by far the most common. Wood packaging is carefully regulated with over 200 countries now requiring all wooden packaging to be ISPM 15 certified, but what is ISPM 15? What does it mean? And why is it important to you? First let’s look at why wood is still such a popular material for packing when shipping.

Why use wood packaging?
There are a number of materials available for shipment packaging, with new technologies able to produce more advanced materials suited to bearing greater weights, surviving extreme weather conditions or minimising excess weight and space. However these more advanced materials are often expensive and largely unnecessary as wood is not only effective, but also better suited to international shipping norms. This is because most ports, warehouses and other distribution centres are designed with pallets in mind and since most wood packaging is built on or around a pallet there are no changes necessary with regards to the systems in place.

Other advantages of wood packaging include:

  • It is recyclable – the wood can be reused roughly 8 times before it has to be repaired or disposed of. Once it is unusable for shipping it can be used for fuel, mulch, animal bedding or even sued to repair other wooden crates and pallets.
  • Flexibility – it is easy to make crates (or adjust them) to the dimensions necessary at little to no cost.
  • Safety – in the unlikely event of a fire, wood packaging is considered safer than plastic (or other similar materials).

What is ISPM 15?
International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures 15 (ISPM 15) is, as the name suggests, an international standard adopted by over 200 countries. It has created an internationally recognised norm for wood packaging that must be adhered to by anyone wishing to import or export from a participating country. In order to be certified with ISPM 15, the wood must debarked (DB), then either heat treated (HT) or fumigated with methyl bromide (MB) before finally being stamped or branded with a mark of compliance from an approved source.


shipment packaging

An example of an ISMP 15 stamp, showing the nation of origin, its unique registration number and how the wood has been treated, along with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) logo.

Why is ISPM 15 important?
The main reason for the requirement of ISPM 15 is to reduce the risk of insects and diseases spreading from country to country. By ensuring that all of the wood crates, pallets etc. entering the country are prevented from transmitting insects and diseases, the risk of ecosystems or national health being harmed are severely reduced.

What if my packaging does not meet ISPM 15 standards?
It is possible that your goods will not be allowed to leave the port at the point of export and it is very likely that they will not be allowed into the port of import. It is then possible that you will have to either arrange for the return of the shipment, the destruction of non-compliant packaging or the treatment of non-compliant packaging. This can be very costly, time consuming and greatly affect your supply chain, so it’s best to ensure that your wood packaging meets ISPM 15 standards.

It is also important that any dunnage (material used to protect or secure shipments in place during transportation) also meets ISPM 15 as this will also be inspected.


shipment packaging

Most warehouses, ports and distribution centres are suited to wooden pallets.

Are there any exceptions?
There are a number of exceptions to ISPM 15, however they each come with their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Wood exceptions – Not all wood has to meet ISPM 15. If the wood used is less than 6 millimetres thick it will be exempt from ISPM 15. Likewise if the wood is a manufactured wood panel such as chipboard, plywood or particle board it will be exempt in some countries. Gift boxes may also be exempt if they have been treated for pests, and barrels of spirits and wine are also exempt.
  • Plastic – Plastics can be made to be more lightweight and stronger than wood packaging; however it comes at extra cost due the processes involved with shaping the plastic. Plastic packaging cannot be altered easily, unlike wood, therefore exact measurements and a uniform size would be required when producing the packaging. Most ports, warehouses and distribution centres are also designed around the use of pallets; therefore plastic packaging may cause issues which may result in extra costs or longer transit times. Plastic packaging also has issues with its reusability as well as its suitability in emergency situations such as fire.
  • Paper and Cardboard – Paper and cardboard packaging is limited by the weight that it can withhold, as well as the ease of transporting it due to its incompatibility with common lifting equipment such as forklift trucks. There are also issues with its performance in extreme weather conditions, as it is likely to suffer damage in humid, wet or very cold conditions. It is however very cheap and easily recyclable.
  • Shrink wrap – Shrink wrap can be used in combination with a pallet base, however it offers little to no protection to the goods in the event of collisions with other foods and other such common occurrences.


When you are importing or exporting, it is best to check the requirements of the target country to ensure that your shipment packaging will meet any additional requirements.

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