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Wooden Pallets Becoming Import Barrier

UK businesses are working long and hard to win valuable export orders, then running the risk of overseas port authorities refusing entry to their goods because of the wooden pallets they are using.

That’s the stark warning of Jim Hardisty, managing director of, days after a leading UK pharmaceutical company had a high-value 20-pallet order of Penicillin refused entry by Chinese port officials.

Hardisty said: “The Chinese questioned a tiny hole in one of the wooden pallets, despite documents proving they complied with internationally-recognised ISPM 15 heat treatment standards and they were stamped and branded with the treatment code, country code, registration number, and Forestry Commission number.

“For wooden pallets and packaging, ISPM 15 is widely regarded as a ‘world passport,’ but we are finding that problems can arise if the official stamp marks have been scuffed, if the pallets get damaged in transit, if there are surface blemishes, or if port officials suspect they’ve been repaired, which voids the mark.

“ISPM 15 is essential to help prevent the international spread of wood-borne pests – but some parts of the world are very keen to protect their own manufacturing industries and they recognise bureaucratic opportunities to block or delay the arrival of imports. In effect, they’re using wooden pallets to build import barriers.

“UK exporters are ending up with unexpected bills to have their consignments re-palletted by unknown companies thousands of miles away, and face the embarrassment and cost of missing delivery deadlines. And it’s all unnecessary: the easy answer is to choose plastic pallets, which are exempt from ISPM 15 regulations and the possibility of over-zealous implementation.”

Hardisty’s business,, is the UK’s fastest-growing plastic pallet company, but also sells wooden pallets through a sister company, AllPallets Ltd.

Hardisty says: “With shipping costs running at well over £100 per 1,000kg pallet, it makes sense to invest an extra £2 or £3 per pallet – often a tiny fraction of the value of the goods being exported – and choose the plastic option. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, but it’s surprising how many UK companies are unaware of the risks they’re running.”

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