What is IMFO ?

The International Maritime Fumigation Organization came into existence because marine fumigation or fumigation continued in transit is perhaps several times more complex than what we know as classic inland fumigation of silos and all kinds of static premises.

What is fumigation ?

Fumigation can be most generally defined as the action of releasing and dispersing a toxic chemical that reaches a targeted pest in the gaseous state. The goal of fumigation is to confine enough gas for sufficient time to eradicate the target pest, which in normal conditions is achieved in a static chamber under control of one qualified fumigator, who is able to supervise and eliminate all related processes and possible hazards. Among them is control of the residue gas level, detection of possible leakages, properly performed degassing, etc.

Goods are also transported to other parts of the world, however they do not cease to be subject to fumigation. Fumigation in ships holds continued in transit is done with the purpose to prevent idle time of ships and avoid the related additional costs. Fumigation in transit became possible with use of Phosphine gas (Hydrogen Phosphide), the only fumigant allowed for this purpose by IMO Recommendations on the Safe Use of Pesticides in Ships (2002).

Effective innovation

The introduction of fumigation in transit with use of Phosphine came in so smoothly into our life that traders, mariners and all other participants concerned seem to have barely noticed this effective innovation.

Several decades ago, a load of grain being declared insect-infested, grain traders would have 3 options: to accept this certification of the load which would make it impossible to sell the grain, or offload the infested grain from the vessel, or otherwise to fumigate the infested grain on board the vessel in port. Today fumigation in transit with use of Phosphine gas has replaced those ineffective, hazardous and uncomfortable options.

Fumigation during voyage to destination

The process of marine fumigation begins at load port, continues for definite time during voyage to destination and ends at discharge port. The fumigation team performs fumigation works upon completion of loading issuing the certificate of fumigation in transit, stating in it the name of the fumigant used, the dosage and the exposure time which should be strictly observed.

The effect of Phosphine fumigants is based on reaction with moisture in the air to produce Phosphine which is toxic to all forms of life however it is detectable by an odor of carbide, decaying fish or garlic and very easily and quickly can be aerated thanks to the gas being only slightly heavier than air. Phosphine gas has permissible norms of gas concentration to allow people be exposed to it at very low levels for up to 8 hours a day without hazards to health. As against Phosphine, fumigation with Methyl Bromide would require that the ship be cleared of the crew for the whole period of fumigation as this fumigant is more than three times as heavy as air, requiring electric blowers to aerate the gas, it is injurious to all forms of life and exposure to it should be avoided by people at all concentrations.

Cooperation between all parties concerned

Besides the necessity of fumigant application in the port of loading, there might arise difficulties both during the voyage itself and at the port of discharge, as fumigation is only completed when the exposure time has elapsed and ventilation has been completed and a gas free certificate issued by a competant person. To provide for due safety and proper efficacy, this complicated workflow requires participation of at least three parties throughout all this period of time: fumigators at load port, mariners, and fumigators at discharge. Fumigators at the port of loading provide the vessel with the necessary safety instructions at voyage and fumigators at discharge shall control the degassing process providing for that the load meets all necessary standards of the receiving country.

With the aim to improve cooperation between all parties concerned and increase level of Safety and efficacy for marine fumigation in 1994 the International Maritime Fumigation Organization (IMFO) was founded.