Greenpeace ships blockade Dutch harbour to stop ancient forest timber entering europe

Press release - 14 April, 2002

Amazon river and rainforest, Brazil

While world governments meeting at the Ancient Forest Summit in the Hague (Convention on Biological Diversity) have made no progress towards agreeing to protect the world's ancient forests, Greenpeace took further action to expose the need for international cooperation to save ancient forests by stopping an Amazon timber ship entering Europe.

Greenpeace´s new vessel, the Esperanza, and its flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, joined forces today to prevent the 'Balaban 1´ from berthing and unloading its cargo, 4,000 cubic metres of wood from the Amazon rainforest, at the Dutch harbour of Flushing. As the Turkish flagged timber ship neared the harbour, its crew used fire hoses to spray water on six Greenpeace activists (1) who were attempting to board the vessel. The two Greenpeace ships then blocked the timber ship´s intended berth while the six activists boarded it and unfurled two banners, one of which displayed the Dutch and Brazilian flags, urging those and other governments meeting in the Hague, to "Act Now" to save the ancient forests. The 'Balaban 1´ has been forced to turn and is presently moored at the harbour mouth.

"Yet another ship has been found trying to import illegally logged Amazon timber into Europe. This illustrates the scale of the problem. Despite the clear need for action, the lack of political will at the Hague meeting to stop ancient forest destruction is shameful. We´re calling on the environment ministers, in particular, Jose Carlos Carvalho from Brazil, scheduled to arrive at the meeting this week, to rescue the convention," said Gudrun Henne of Greenpeace International.

The Brazilian government recently announced that it will continue to eradicate illegal logging of mahogany. However, it is not clear who defines the Brazilian position, the President or the Brazilian delegation in the Hague. In the negotiations, Brazilian delegates have been strongly opposing the prioritisation of ancient forests protection, and refusing to take immediate action on combating illegal logging and related trade. Without international cooperation, markets around the world will continue to accept timber from illegal and destructive logging, thus fuelling the crisis in the world's last remaining ancient forests.

As the world's ancient forests continue to be destroyed, Brazil and the Netherlands, in particular, seem not to be interested in taking leadership at the Ancient Forest Summit. The Netherlands, hosting the Summit in the Hague, is not controlling the importation of illegal timber and is not showing the leadership that is required to make the negotiations on ancient forests a success.

Ancient forests harbour most of the terrestrial biodiversity on the planet and lie at the heart of the Convention on Biological Diversity. However, 10 years after they committed to saving ancients forest when they adopted the CBD at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, governments have taken no concrete steps to stop ancient forest destruction. Greenpeace welcomes the French and German initiative, launched at the G8 meeting in Canada this weekend, to take real action to protect ancient forests and to challenge the Ministers of Environment of Brazil and the Netherlands to follow suit.

"Logging companies such as Rancho da Cabocla in Brazil (2) and those in other vulnerable forest regions are profiting from their illegal and corrupt practices and importers such as DLH are doing just the same," said Paulo Adario of Greenpeace Amazon. "The world´s governments must act now to control these companies and stop them from robbing the planet of its resources and the forest nations of much needed revenue. Unless they agree to concrete steps to stop ancient forest destruction, clean up their timber industries (3) and provide more funds for ancient forest protection in the next few days, the future for ancient forests is bleak," he added.

Notes: 1) The Greenpeace activists on board the timber ship are from the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom. 2) Rancho da Caboclo was fined 60,000 Euros in March by IBAMA for its illegal logging practices and was found to be transporting over 120 logs down the Amazon River. 3) This means importing and using only wood and wood products that come from sustainable sources and that have been certified. At present the only international certification scheme which uses ecological, social and economic criteria is the FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council™).