OK, let’s face it, choosing the right pallets for international shipping does not usually make for stimulating intellectual discourse. Their proper usage is not a great conversation starter. Nonetheless, if you have stopped by this site, chances are you have more than a passive interest in shipping. Therefore, we will take a chance that you share our passion for all things freight-related and offer a few, brief words to the wise.
The first thing to know is that all pallets are not created equal. If you are shipping internationally, it is critical that you know the difference. To prevent the spread of wood-borne insects and diseases, most countries of the world now adhere to something known as the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15). The standards are strictly enforced, especially in countries with significant agricultural or logging industries.
Using the wrong pallet can result in significant quarantine delays of your freight, or, in some cases, outright destruction/disposal of the cargo. Be sure you know the difference.
Treated Versus Untreated Pallets
When shipping domestically, a pallet is pretty much a pallet. You are free to recycle one that your last inbound shipment arrived on, or build your own custom pallet (or crate) from wood at your local lumber yard.
It is when you ship internationally that is when things get tricky. Wooden pallets come in two flavors: treated and untreated. All treated pallets display the symbol commonly referred to as the “Wheat Stamp”: International Plant Protection Seal (IPPS)
As long as your pallet displays this seal, it has either been chemically or heat treated by the manufacturer. Use one of these pallets and you are good to go.
Forget to use them, or hope to use an untreated pallet and not get caught, and you are in for a world of trouble.
An increasingly popular alternative to treated wood pallets is plastic pallets.
Plastic pallets afford you the flexibility of using them for both domestic and international shipments and allow reuse without the wear and tear associated with wooden pallets. They do not require any type of treatment. Over time, wooden pallets break and deteriorate, making the plastic pallet a better long-term investment, despite their higher upfront cost. Obviously, you need the ability to send them to another of your company’s own facilities to keep them within your system.
Where To Get Treated Pallets
Treated pallets as well as plastic pallets are widely available from most pallet manufacturers and distributors. If you ask for them they will know exactly what you are talking about.
Alternately, you can build your own pallet or shipping crate as long as you are careful to purchase “treated lumber” from your local lumber yard. Don’t forget to make sure the wood displays the wheat stamp,shown above.
With the above information, you are on your way to one less hitch in the maze of regulations that international shipping can often entail. Still, probably best to not bring it up at your next cocktail party.