U.S. Customs and Border Protection has published guidelines for how importers and carriers may mitigate penalties for violations of wood packaging materials regulations.
CBP enforces wood packaging materials regulations on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Untreated wood packaging, such as pallets and dunnage, may carry wood-boring insects that have the potential to destroy the nation’s timberlands.
CBP officers at the ports of entry look for unmarked or inappropriately marked wood packaging materials, as well as signs of infestation, among inbound cargo shipments. The penalty amounts for these violations are generally based on the value of the goods shipped with the wood packaging.
At its discretion, CBP will mitigate penalties for up to three violations of the wood packaging regulations. The first violation may be mitigated to an amount between 1 and 10% of the value of the assessed penalty, while the second violation may be mitigated to 10 to 25% and the third violation by no lower than 25%.
In general, a claim for liquidated damages involving wood packaging may be canceled at an amount between $500 and $5,000, depending on the circumstances of violation, the agency said.
“Mitigation will generally not be provided if the violator has a continuing documented pattern of WPM (wood packaging materials) violations,” CBP said.
Some of the mitigating factors that CBP will take into account include “clear documentary evidence” from the importer or carrier that the wood packaging violations were remedied, if a small percentage of the shipment involved noncompliant wood packaging, an established record of compliance or “a violator’s lack of importing experience.”
CBP may deny mitigation of penalties to those importers or carriers that fail to cooperate with CBP and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, falsely mark wood packaging material and documentation, attempt to hide the wood packaging violation and fail to take immediate action to prevent further violations.
The agency began assessing penalties against importers and carriers with improperly treated or marked wood packaging materials on Nov. 1, 2017.
Since September 2005, nonexempt wood packaging material imported into the U.S. has required treatment at approved origin facilities to kill any potential timber pests. The treated material must include a visible mark that satisfies the International Plant Protection Convention’s International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM 15). Without this mark, the wood packaging material is deemed “untreated.”
Enforcement of ISPM 15 by the U.S. has been credited with stopping further infestations of invasive timber pests, which can cause billions of dollars in losses to the nation’s lumber, fruit and nut industries, as well as cause destruction to national park lands.
Before implementation of ISPM 15, several high-profile invasive pests garnered national attention and led to the international consensus for the regulations. These included outbreaks in the U.S. during the 1990s of the Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer, both of which were believed to be introduced through untreated wood packaging materials.