Contributed by Roger Day, CABI
If you put all the shipping containers in the world end to end, the line would go round the world 5 times. So a problem with a very small proportion of them is still a pretty big problem.
One such problem is that when a container is being packed with cargo, pests can get in and hitch a free ride to another country. So in 2008, the 3rd Session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM3) directed an expert working group to start developing an international standard for “Minimizing pest movement by sea containers”.
CPM 5 (2010) directed that work on the topic was urgent, and a draft standard was produced, but at CPM7, after lengthy discussions late into the evening, it became “clear that this complex topic needed further consideration”.
Meanwhile, the expert working group was talking to the International Maritime Organisation and others who agreed to include phytosanitary requirements in their new Code of Practice for packing containers.
CPM9 (2014), perhaps a little frustrated at the speed of progress, decided that while work on the standard continued, a draft recommendation be prepared.
And so it was that this week CPM10 adopted a recommendation on sea containers. The risks need to be recognised, communicated to all those involved, and implementation of the Code of Practice supported. Where justified and practical, National Plant Protection Organisations should take action to mitigate the risks.
Which all goes to show that developing international standards is rarely plain sailing.