The Gambia Tells Port Officials to Ban All Timber Exports

File image courtesy U.S. EIA

Published Jul 4, 2022 3:11 AM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, the West African nation of The Gambia banned timber exports and permanently revoked all timber export licenses with immediate effect.

The ban targets timber of the highly prized African Rosewood tree, which is native in West and Central Africa. It has been nearly extinct since 2011.

Following the ban, the government instructed port authorities to refuse loading of timber logs onto any vessel. In addition, random searches of containers should be heightened.

When current president Adama Barrow came into power in January 2017, one of his top priorities was to stamp out illegal logging of rosewood timber. However, he stopped short of a full export ban at the time.

According to a 2020 report by Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Gambia had exported approximately 1.6 million rosewood trees between June 2012 and April 2020. Most of these exports are in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), under which rosewood has been listed since 2017.

Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau are world’s largest sources for rosewood tree species. Much of it ends up in China, where it is used to make antique-style furniture and art. Chinese traders have been implicated in the illegal trade, according to the U.S. EIA. 

In terms of value and volume, rosewood timber is one of the most trafficked wildlife products in the world.

The Banjul Port is an important conduit in rosewood exports out of Gambia. This prompted CMA CGM in July 2020 to suspend timber exports from Gambia.

“Following several suspicions that undeclared rosewood may have been part of cargo shipments from Gambia, the Group has decided to halt its timber exports from the country until further notice,” CMA CGM said in a statement at the time.

In May, IMO adopted new guidelines for prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international maritime traffic. The guidelines include measures to prevent, detect and report wildlife trafficking within the shipping industry.