Wildlife Trafficking in Africa Poses Risk to Maritime Companies

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file photo

Published Sep 19, 2019 9:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The vulnerabilities in maritime transportation and customs capability are being exploited by criminal traffickers in African sea ports. Container shipping facilitates the movement of wildlife goods, and maritime companies and their assets, wittingly or unwittingly complicit in wildlife trafficking, face legal, financial and reputational risks.

That's the key message from a report into wildlife trafficking through Tanzania's ports which has been published ahead of a workshop organized in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, by TRAFFIC, UNDP and UNODC.

The report highlights wildlife trafficking through Dar of Salaam and Zanzibar. Whilst there have been no reported seizures linked to the ports since August 2015, there have been seizures of illicit wildlife products in the region of Dar es Salaam in recent years. 

Tanzania is a biodiversity hotspot with one of Africa’s most significant elephant populations which have faced unprecedented levels of poaching recently. Tanzania, alongside neighboring countries, Kenya and Uganda have been implicated in this trade for the last decade, linked as source and exporters of ivory as well as transit countries for consignments gathered from elsewhere.

Along with ivory, Tanzanian’s ports have been used to move illegal products such as wildlife, timber, narcotics, arms and precious minerals. Source nations include Kenya, Malaysia, UAE, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines and Taiwan, with illegal products shipped to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Tanzania’s ports collectively provide a series of vital links between the Indian Ocean, the hinterland of Tanzania and the country’s landlocked neighbors of Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Illegal products have been concealed in specialized containers with hidden compartments or among bulk products that can effectively disguise the physical presence and sometimes the smell of an illegal wildlife product. The report cites records indicating that plastic declared as “used” or “recycled” was the most common product used to conceal illicit ivory shipped to China and Vietnam via Malaysia. 

Illicit ivory in particular was often cut into smaller pieces, packaged into multiple boxes, bags or sacks and hidden among large quantities of legal products. Shipping containers that originated from Tanzania were mislabelled, with containers for six incidents declared or labelled as construction materials such as “plastic” “rubber” or “copper ore” whilst two containers were declared as fish related products such as “seashells,” “dried fish” and “anchovies.”

Operating methods included the creation of front companies with limited business, legal and financial information to book shipments, bribery, the last-minute alteration of a Bill of Lading to obscure true origin/route/destination of a shipment and document fraud involving incomplete information on the Bill of Lading.

The report notes the potential risks for shipping companies citing as an example the container ship, Hub Enzo which was involved in an ivory shipment in March 2009. The shipment reportedly originated from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the container containing the ivory was moved onto the vessel at a Malaysian port and seized at the Port of Hai Phong in Vietnam. The vessel and its owner at the time, Hub Marine Pte Ltd, were named as complicit in the media for transporting the ivory between Malaysia and Vietnam, although many others formed part of the trade chain. For example, the vessel linked to the voyage from Tanzania to Malaysia was not named publicly by either the Vietnamese or
Tanzanian law enforcement. 
The report is available here.