Greanpeace has called on Spain, France and Gabon to urgently investigate circumstances surrounding a ship carrying timber believed to have been illegally logged in Africa and destined for the European market.
Officials of the Amsterdam, Netherlands-based non-governmental environmental organisation with offices in over 40 countries believe that Modern Express, which is a car carrier, was recently towed away from the French coast, and has safely entered the port of Bilbao, Spain. It was on its way to Le Havre, France, presumably the cargo’s destination.
“The controversy surrounds its origin and legality,” says Hellen Dena, Greenpeace Africa’s spokesperson, adding that Gabonese authorities are reported to have investigated the case and have called upon Interpol to open an international investigation.
“All countries that could potentially be the origin of the timber are part of the Congo Basin, a region where illegal logging is a widespread problem. The forestry sector in the region is beset by rampant corruption, a lack of transparency and a lack of proper monitoring and law enforcement on the ground whilst significant amounts of illegal timber are still exported to international markets every year,” she adds.
The European Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits the placing of illegal timber on the European market and requires that operators exercise due diligence to prevent the contamination of their supply chain.
But Greenpeace insists that both France and Spain have been slow in the implementation of this law, and that authorities have so far failed to conduct sufficient and effective checks.
Dena submits: “Greenpeace urges both countries to take immediate steps, seize the timber and determine whether the operators involved acted in compliance with their obligations under the EUTR. In the case of non-compliance with the timber regulation, sanctions should be imposed.
“Greenpeace also urges the Gabonese government to start an immediate investigation and give the Spanish and French authorities full access to all the documents required to investigate this case.”