How is fumigation used in imports and exports?

When importing and exporting cargo between countries, precautions must be taken to reduce the risk of contamination from non-native species. In most cases, when wood packing materials such as pallets are used in shipping containers, buyers will often require the supplier to fumigate their cargo and issue a fumigation certificate. Export fumigation is a legal requirement in most countries worldwide, and shipments cannot be imported without the correct documentation.

In this article, you will find out more about the fumigation process, why it is important, its benefits, and more.

What is fumigation?

Fumigation is a pest control method where fumigants (gaseous chemicals) such as phosphine or sulfuryl fluoride are released into an enclosed space to eradicate a pest. The gas is maintained at a specific concentration for a set period to ensure that the issue is resolved.

Once the gas has been held in the space long enough, the container will be safely aired and issued a clearance certificate. The cargo is then ready to be exported and will be legally accepted by the buyer at its destination.

This is a job that should be carried out by a competent fumigant specialist with the appropriate training and formal certification. Fumigation can be extremely dangerous, which is why it is important only to use a reputable company dedicated to following the strict health and safety guidelines required in export fumigation.

How is fumigation used in imports and exports?

Shipping containers that are imported and exported are routinely fumigated throughout the UK. Cargo containing food goods, timber, furniture and other items are often at particular risk of carrying non-native pests around the globe. Stored Product Insects such as mites, weevils, moths and beetles are notorious for infesting dried food such as rice, pasta, grain and will often be found in raw materials such as wooden pallets. However, by fumigating these containers, insect pests and eggs are prevented from contaminating cargo and spreading disease.

What are the legal fumigation requirements for importing and exporting goods?

There are different legal requirements for importing and exporting goods around the world because each country has its own legislation. That being said, if you use, produce, or supply wood packaging materials in the UK (such as pallets) to move goods to or from the EU or the rest of the world, you are required to ensure it meets ISPM15 international standards.

Wood packaging materials can refer to a whole host of products such as packing cases, boxes, or crates. The issue is, these materials are known to introduce harmful tree and forestry pests and diseases. These materials and your cargo may be checked at the border to ensure they comply with the necessary requirements, and if your imports don’t they may be rejected or destroyed.

For your cargo to be ISPM15 compliant, shipping containers must be fumigated using either methyl bromide or sulphuryl fluoride. Heat treatment can also be used at 56°C for at least 30 continuous minutes to eradicate any pest.

If you would like to find out more about the legal fumigation requirements for importing and exporting goods, you can take a look at the UK Government’s website, where they have guidance on Wood Packaging Materials for import and export.

Benefits of using fumigation in imports and exports

Fumigation is not only a legal requirement when importing and exporting goods, but more often than not it is more beneficial for this process to be carried out for all parties. Some of the key benefits are:

  • First, and most important, fumigation prevents unwanted non-native pests from invading countries around the world and potentially causing millions of pounds’ worth of damages to a range of industries. A key example of this is the brown marmorated stink bug, which has caused untold harm to the agricultural industries on multiple continents throughout the years.
  • Employing a professional, licenced and certified fumigation specialist helps to establish trust between exporters and buyers. The certification that cargo has been fumigated and safely cleared cannot be undervalued in the import and export industry.
  • Fumigation ensures that your cargo reaches its destination undamaged and intact. If it departs without fumigation, you may find that pests have caused damage during shipping, and your buyer will reject it.
  • It ensures that you are compliant with international regulations and that your cargo won’t be rejected or destroyed at its destination.

Risks associated with the use of fumigation

It is always recommended that export fumigation be carried out by licenced professional fumigation specialists such as Fumigill. The fumigants required to clear cargo of any unwanted pests properly can be highly harmful to humans if inhaled.

One of the most frequently used fumigants, Phosphine, can be dangerous to humans with low-level exposure causing breathing difficulties, coughing, a tight chest, headaches and the feeling of fainting. If the proper precautions and safety measures are not taken, personnel in the vicinity could be exposed whilst cargo is being fumigated, and if the container is not cleared, those at the destination could also be affected.

If the gas levels are too high and there is a high level of exposure, people may experience symptoms such as vomiting, fits, diarrhoea, fluid collecting in the lungs and in severe cases, becoming comatose. These are just a handful of the symptoms of fumigant exposure which is why a specialist must always carry out this work.

Get in touch

Fumigill is proud to offer our Cargo Fumigation Services and other fumigation treatments for clients across the UK importing and exporting cargo globally.

If you need export fumigation treatments or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our team. With over 25 years of experience, we are happy to answer any questions you may have and help you find the right solution to your pest problem.

If you would like to find out more about our UK Fumigation Services or have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today on 0151 345 6854 or email us at info@urbanhawks.co.uk.

We are happy to answer any further queries and offer a free consultancy process to discuss your pest issues thoroughly before actioning a procedure.