Maersk ships carried illegal timber to China

Danish Maersk group has transported several shipments of illegal timber from Mozambique to China in recent years. This is according to an investigation by journalists in Maputo and Denmark, that was published on Thursday, March 16.

According to the report, the company transported illegal timber from Mozambique to China several times between 2019 and 2021.

Danish Danwatch and Zitamar News has come in possession of documents that confirms, that several cargoes owned by Maersk, including one on Feb. 4, 2020, arrived at the port of Ningbo China, with 255 tons of illegal timber from Mozambique.

“More specifically, there were unprocessed logs of the tropical tree species Nkula, which is only found in a few African countries and is estimated to be close to extinction,” the report said.

According to the data obtained by Danwatch and Zitamar News, two other Maersk ships arrived at the same port in China in January 2020, with 4,000 tons of illegal timber from Mozambique.

Records dating from 2019 and 2021, shows cargoes carrying Nkula, Mondzo and Chanato. All are valuable wood varieties that is listed on the Mozambican authorities’ list of native species.

Not expressly breaking the law

The Danish company, which has not denied carrying the cargo, is not expressly breaking the law but merely eluding it explains the authors of the article after consulting experts in the field.

Mozambique’s law for timber exports only says that the export of unprocessed timber from native species is not allowed, but the ban makes no reference to transport or logistics.

Maersk acknowledges that it has a responsibility to ensure that the cargo on the ships is legal but states that it is up to the authorities to approve a product for export.

In its latest sustainability report, Maersk writes that it is “particularly concerned about curbing the illegal timber trade” and that it’s the company’s policy “not to tolerate the transport of wild animals or plants prohibited by international or national law”.

Scientists estimate that deforestation caused by both the illegal timber trade and charcoal production, has made Mozambique more fragile to cyclones.

The government estimates losses due to the trades at billions of euros and institutions warn that the funds obtained help finance attacks by Islamist rebels.


About Miabell Mallikka

Miabell Mallikka is a journalist working with ScandAsia at the headquarters in Bangkok.

View all posts by Miabell Mallikka

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