1st February 2022, 19:54
Published by GBC News
Legislation to stop non-compliant wooden pallets entering Gibraltar came into force on Tuesday.
Pallets, used to transport goods from food and beverage to medicines, have been piling up since we left the European Union.
These wooden blocks need to comply with international standards on being heat treated, to prevent the global spread of timber pests. Pallets that circulate within the EU don't need to comply with this standard, and suppliers to the Rock often send non-compliant pallets, as they have previously been able to.
Now that we have left the EU, businesses on the Rock are unable to return the non-compliant pallets they end up with as Spain won't accept them. The legislation could improve this situation. Shelina Assomull has been following the story.
Pallets are compliant with international standards if they have the marking to prove it – this mark right here.
As previously reported by GBC, businesses in Gibraltar have been sent some non-compliant ones, and now that they’re here they can’t get rid of them.
They’re not compliant with the international standard and can't be treated here to make them compliant, so no one will take them.
GBC understands there are around 25,000 pallets in Gibraltar at present.
Last year, when the issue struck after leaving the EU, over 40,000 pallets were exported from Gibraltar. We asked for figures for 2020 and 2019 for some context, however the Government told us it didn’t have this data readily available.
Businesses can’t simply dispose of the non-compliant pallets because they are the property of the suppliers they work with and they will get charged for not returning them.
The legislation introduced today states that wooden pallets entering Gibraltar will need to be compliant with the international standard and that there should be at least one visible mark to prove this.
A problem for local traders is that some of their suppliers, largely based in the EU, don’t work with compliant pallets to begin with.
The legislation will aim to tackle non-compliant pallets coming into Gibraltar going forward, but this is a difficult task in itself because if one enters in error it can’t be sent back.
The Government told GBC that HM Customs would police this as they do with other prohibited items, but that it would require the cooperation of suppliers and wholesalers sending their goods to the Rock.
It says that non-compliant pallets will be confiscated and dealt with by fines, adding that cases could be taken to court.
If non-compliant pallets are turned away that could also result in delays to supply of products to the Rock.
The legislation will help but the hope for businesses here is that an UK EU treaty on Gibraltar will resolve the problem once and for all.
Until then, they continue to pile up these pallets. With land in short supply, and the companies ultimately responsible for storing them, the problem could yet reach a tipping point in future.