Greenpeace boards ship importing rainforest destruction to Italy

Press release - 11 October, 2005
Today 30 Greenpeace activists boarded a ship carrying rainforest timber at the Italian port of Livorno. Eight activists, dressed as gorillas, climbed two of the ship’s cranes to prevent its cargo from being unloaded.

The ‘Guan He Kou’ is carrying sawn timber from the Congo Basin, where widespread illegal logging is destroying the forest and driving gorillas and chimpanzees towards extinction. The rainforest is also home to millions of indigenous people who depend on the forest for their survival.

Greenpeace International’s Forest Campaigner, Belinda Fletcher, said: ‘Stolen rainforest timber is flooding into ports in Italy and across Europe almost daily. It ends up on construction sites and is being sold in high street stores.(1) If this criminal activity is not stopped, the world’s rainforests look set to disappear in our lifetime and the only forest elephants, lowland gorillas and chimpanzees left will be in zoos.”

The ship’s timber cargo was logged by a Cameroonian timber company, Société Industrielle de Mbang (SIM), which is partly financed by Italian capital.(2) The rainforests of the Congo Basin are rapidly being decimated by the logging industry, which is notoriously corrupt in the region. During field investigations to Cameroon in 2005, Greenpeace discovered that SIM is illegally logging outside the boundaries of its cutting permit. It also gathered extensive evidence that SIM buys timber from other companies heavily involved in illegal logging.(3)

Last year, Cameroon exported approximately €400 million worth of timber to countries across Europe. Italy is one of its main customers buying sawn wood, logs, veneer and mouldings. Other key importers are Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany.(4) When it leaves Italy, the ‘Guan He Kou’ and her cargo will go to Spain.

Life on Earth depends on ancient forests for its survival but only 20 percent of the world’s original forest remains intact. These last forests are threatened by the international demand for cheap timber, yet there are no laws in Europe to allow the authorities to seize shipments of illegally logged timber products, or to oblige companies to make sure their timber is not from illegal or destructive sources.

Greenpeace is calling on European governments to outlaw all imports of illegal timber and to promote environmentally and socially responsible forest management worldwide. Illegal logging and related trade is expected to be on the agenda of the Agriculture Council of the EU on the 24-25th October.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization, which uses non-violent, creative communication tools to put the spotlight on global environmental problems, and to drive towards solutions essential for a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: Belinda Fletcher, Greenpeace International Forest Campaigner on +44 207 865 8225

VVPR info: Images of today’s action and Africa’s ‘Great Ape’ rainforest are available on request. Photos: John Novis on (M) +31 6 5381 9121Video: Maarten van Rouveroy on +31 (0) 20 718 2208 or (M) +31 646 197 322

(1) Consumers can guarantee that the timber products come from well-managed sources, by buying products carrying the logo of the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®).
(2) Shareholders of SIM include the Italian timber companies Piarottolegno and Dassi.
(3) In 2005, Greenpeace field investigators visited SIM’s cutting permit (Vente de Coupe 08-10-73) in the Mbam & Kim department in the Centre province of Cameroon. They documented large scale illegal logging activities by SIM outside the legal boundaries of its allocated permit. Greenpeace estimates that SIM has logged at least 850 hectares illegally in this area. Investigators also found that the SIM/TIB sawmill is sourcing timber from two permits held by other Cameroonian companies, FIAM and Topaze, whose permits are widely considered to be illegal in Cameroon. For more information see:
(4) Rupert Oliver & Emily Fripp, Changing International Markets For Timber: What African Producers Can do, African Timber Trade Forums, Producer Country Draft Cameroon, May-July 2005, section 1.2.