Pest Issues Affect Sea Containers, Not Just WPM

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, familiar from their role in regulation Wood Packaging Materials (WPM), is also concerned with reducing the pest risk of sea containers. The 12.5 million sea containers that enter the U. S. each year may contain inside “all life stages of invasive insects, mites, snails, and slugs … ready to infest a new location.” In addition, outside “container walls could be contaminated with insect egg masses, bird droppings, and soil containing weed seeds and disease-causing microbes.”

New Zealand made a proposal to the International Plant Protection convention (IPPC) to adopt a world-wide standard. That proposal was unable to gain acceptance. AHPIS is now working with Canada and Mexico in the North American Sea Container Initiative to establish similar goals. The Initiative is being administered by the North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO). At this point the voluntary initiative has developed recommended self-inspection practices for the industry. See

APHIS hopes to leverage the North American Initiative, with the help of New Zealand and Australia, into a multi-national standard through IPPC. In the interim, the North American Initiative includes not only APHIS but also U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Transport Canada. Industry members include the World Shipping Council, Global Shippers Forum, International Cargo Handling Coordination Association, Institute of International Container Lessors, Freight Management Association of Canada, National Industrial Transportation League, and Agriculture Transportation Coalition.

APHIS has many of the same enforcement tools used with WPM – including quarantine and exclusion orders – available for contaminated containers. Shippers can avoid costs and delays by taking proactive steps to ensure pest free containers. A training video is available at

Steven W. Baker

AIIS Customs Committee Chair

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