What is Cargo Fumigation?

The rise of globalisation in the past 100 years has allowed us to connect like never before.

However, it has also resulted in non-native species invading continents and wreaking havoc on the agricultural industry, fisheries, waterways, as well as posing a danger to humans and wildlife. As a result, the vast majority of countries will not allow goods to be imported unless shipping containers have been sufficiently fumigated at their pick-up point.

At Fumigill, we are proud to offer cargo fumigation across the UK, and our clients often ask us questions regarding our services. They range from ‘How do you fumigate a container?’ to ‘Why is it crucial for global safety?’

To help answer these, we have assembled a comprehensive guide where we discuss everything you need to know about cargo fumigation, how we maintain safety at all times, and the type of fumigants used.

How do you fumigate a container?

Shipping containers are regularly fumigated throughout the UK, particularly those containing food and other goods such as furniture or timber. By fumigating these containers, insect pests and their eggs are prevented from contaminating and potentially spreading disease before these goods are distributed and packaged. Stored Product Insects such as moths, mites, weevils and beetles are notorious for infesting foods such as rice, pasta, grain, nuts, dried fruit and other dried food products and raw materials.

So, how are these containers fumigated? First, the job should always be carried out by a reputable company with specialist training and formal certification. Fumigation is a skilled job that requires strict adherence to health and safety guidelines because the gases are highly toxic and flammable.

The process begins with the controlled release of phosphine gas from a solid form of aluminium phosphide. This is done inside the shipping container to kill any pest species and insects there. To ensure all pests are eradicated, the gas is maintained at a precise concentration for a set period.

Once this time has elapsed, the container is safely aired and issued with a clearance certificate. The cargo is then ready to be shipped and will be accepted at its final destination.

How much does it cost to fumigate a shipping container?

The cost of fumigating a shipping container varies based on several factors such as the company you choose, the type of fumigation required, the pesticide used, whether the shipping container has cargo or is empty, and the weight of the shipment.

For an accurate quote, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Fumigill team today on 01513456854 or email us at info@urbanhawks.co.uk. We are happy to answer any questions and offer a free consultation to discuss your pest issues thoroughly before actioning a procedure.

What is used to fumigate containers?

Cargo fumigation can be carried out in a number of ways, but the three most common and approved treatments are using sulfuryl floride, phosphine or heat treatment.

Sulfuryl fluoride and phosphine are often used for pests such as wood-boring insects, stored product insects, and moths. The treatment time for phosphine can range between five days and a fortnight, but this can depend on the type of pest species, the cargo, and the temperature.

Sulfuryl fluoride treatments are also effective in eliminating pests because once released this colourless, odourless gas will spread into every crack and corner of the container. This can be achieved in as little as 12hrs.

Heat treatments are also regularly used to deal with specific pest species, such as the brown marmorated stink bug – a pest notorious for causing damage to agricultural industries globally that has cost millions of pounds to repair. Heat treatment is a quick and effective method of dealing with cargo pests because once temperatures lethal to the pest species are reached, it takes less than 60 minutes for the process to be complete.

The team at Fumigill will always conduct an initial assessment to determine which of these treatments is suitable for your cargo and site requirements. We are able to treat goods stored in containers, or under sheets, at locations throughout the UK with a turnaround time of 12-24 hours.

How to choose the right container fumigation service

When it comes to cargo fumigation, it is not only important to ensure you are following the legal rules and regulations set out for international exports, but it is also vital that you are keeping everyone safe.

The fumigants used to eliminate any pest species prior to exportation present a serious health risk to all involved in the shipping process. Unsuspecting workers opening and discharging containers, including warehouse operatives, fork-lift truck drivers, port health, customs inspectors, and anyone else who has contact with the container, will all be at risk.

It is vital that when choosing a fumigation service, you always seek out reputable, licenced fumigation specialists such as Fumigill. Most countries will not allow the import of goods without a fumigation certificate which we are authorised to supply. We are also proud to be authorised and approved by Australia and New Zealand to use the fumigant sulfuryl fluoride for cargo containers and break bulk shipments headed for their countries.

Cargo fumigation and tackle regulations

A common question we are asked is ‘What are the cargo fumigation and tackle regulations?’ These set out how the cargo must be identified and what is required to ensure that cargo is safe to handle before exporting, during shipping, and once it has reached its destination.

As part of these regulations, exporting countries are required to obtain a clearance certificate for their fumigated cargo.

As stated in the document, this certificate must be issued by a fumigator-in-charge or a marine chemist that certifies that a vessel or space is gas-free. This must be carried out by a competent person who has the knowledge and experience to safely and adequately perform the duties required by this part of a fumigator-in-charge, including at least 150 hours of experience on board vessels under the supervision of a marine chemist or fumigator-in-charge in the use and operation of equipment that detects the presence of gas in the atmosphere.

At Fumigill, we ensure that these regulations, as set out in the document below, are followed to the letter to guarantee each shipping container complies with the international requirement to be accepted safely at their destination.

To find out more information you can read more about the Cargo Fumigation and Tackle Regulations here.

How Fumigill safely fumigates containers

Countries have exported goods fumigated regularly before being exported and shipped, but there is a risk to those opening and unloading the cargo if the container has not been sufficiently de-gassed.

According to a survey from Belgium and the Netherlands, 11 per cent of 50,000 containers that were tested were found to have toxic vapours and gas levels above safe levels. One of the most frequently used fumigants, phosphine, can be dangerous to humans, and low-level exposure can induce a cough, a tight chest, breathing difficulties, headaches and feeling faint. Those who are unfortunate enough to have high levels of exposure will likely experience sickness and vomiting, fits, diarrhoea, fluid collecting in the lungs and even become comatose.

There are various symptoms that come with fumigant exposure, so it is crucial that a qualified fumigation specialist always carries out cargo fumigation work.

Concerningly, many of these containers in the aforementioned survey had not even been fumigated. The level of toxic substances was found to be emitted from everyday items such as shoes, electronics, and paint, which were still curing from the manufacturing process. These substances included formaldehyde, toluene, 1,2 Dichloroethane, carbon monoxide and ammonia, which all present health risks to unsuspecting workers and the general public.

So, how do Fumigill safely fumigate containers? Our team is dedicated to putting safety first, which is why we offer a testing and ventilation service for a range of substances to provide reassurance to all those working in close proximity to the cargo and containers.

We will carefully and efficiently extract toxic gases via forced ventilation to remove the remaining hazardous residues. Our team will then thoroughly gas test the container, and only when the levels are below the Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) will we issue a gas-free clearance certificate.

Throughout the process, we will always have a designated ‘fumigator in charge’ who is able to provide documentation proving their competence and authorisation (as required by the Cargo Fumigation and Tackle Regulations).

Clients will be provided with written instructions by the fumigator in charge detailing the type of fumigant used, the hazards involved and the precautions that are being taken. Our Fumigill team will always wear breathing masks, and they will also be provided for these working in close proximity to the fumigated cargo. The correct use of these masks will also be demonstrated to workers before fumigation begins.

Our team will place warning signs and posters in the surrounding area to prevent entrance to dangerous spaces, and we will always perform a  risk assessment prior to actioning a procedure.

At Fumigill, we take the health and safety of our team and those on-site extremely seriously, and we ensure that every regulation is followed and precaution is taken on each job.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to the safety of cargo fumigation or any of our other fumigations services, please don’t hesitate to contact our team. We will be more than happy to answer all questions and put your mind at ease before starting any fumigation work on your site.

Get in touch

Fumigill is proud to offer its Cargo Fumigation Services and treatments for clients exporting cargo globally throughout the UK.

Cargo fumigation is vital in order to prevent the transportation of pests and diseases across the globe. If you are concerned about shipping container cargo or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. With over 25 years of experience, we are confident we can help you find the right solution for your pest problem.

If you would like to find out more about our UK Fumigation Services, get in touch with our team today on 01513456854 or email us at info@urbanhawks.co.uk