- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says decking on luxury yachts made in the UK have illegal wood on them.
- EU rules dictate that point of origin in the chain of sale must be legally-sourced teak from Myanmar.
- Princess Yachts International and Sunseeker International, both singled out by the EIA in their statement, will be at the London Boat Show this week.
Timber that is being illegally logged and smuggled out of Myanmar is ending up as decking on luxury yachts in the UK, according to one group’s research. The chain of sale at point of origin is in contravention of EU rules, according to a statement released Monday by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
The results of the investigation come just before the opening of the London Boat Show, at which two of the exhibitors – Princess Yachts International and Sunseeker International – will be promoting vessels that contain these features, which are illegal according to the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR).
On Monday, the EIA said “it appears that every piece of teak on these yachts traded since the EUTR came into force has been traded illegitimately.”
The EUTR was established in 2013 by the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative to stymie the amount of illegal timber flowing into the region. But because the rules apply only to the act of first placement of illegal wood in the EU market, its jurisdiction only extends to the suppliers and not those that produce or use it.
According to the EIA, two supply companies called NHG Timber and the Belgian-based Vandercasteele Hout Import, have already been cautioned about providing the illegal timber to decking companies that fit out the yachts.
But with joint order books worth more than $1.3 billion last year alone, the EIA alleges that this “demand for Burmese teak is helping to drive illegal trade in the UK and their customers are unwittingly receiving non-compliant wood products.”
According to the EIA, “an overwhelming majority of these vessels will have Burmese teak decks.”
Despite that fact that the wood can be supplied by legal plantations, the consistent demand for Burmese teak in furniture and boats from China to the EU continues to help fuel illegal logging operations in the country, where more than 15 million hectares of wooded land was decimated between 1990 and 2015.
Burmese forestry officials have grappled with trying to reign in the country’s rampant illegal logging problem, which the UNODC has argued should be treated as a criminal – not just an environmental – issue.
But investigators said the demand remains a major concern.
“Myanmar has acknowledged that combatting illegal logging and the associated criminal trade is a priority in addressing corruption and lack of transparency, but the ongoing demand for Burmese teak by European shipyards such as Sunseeker and Princess Yachts undermines this,” the EIA said on Monday.
“If the companies are unable to source legally traded Burmese teak, then they must make use of readily available legal alternatives.”
Last year, a Dutch company was found to be in violation of the EUTR and was sanctioned by Dutch authorities until it could prove that its supply chain was clean again.
NHG and Sunseeker did not respond to requests for comment by Mongabay. Attempts to reach Moody, DA Watts, Princess and Vandercasteele were unsuccessful.
EIA forestry campaigner Peter Cooper told Mongabay that he would be “surprised” if Sunseeker and Princess Yachts were unaware of the likelihood of illegal teak ending up in their vessels.
He added that the EIA had never seen any kind of purchasing policy from either company ensuring that the wood used in their yachts has a legal origin.
Banner image: A yacht on the River Thames in London. Photo by Gary Knight via Flickr.
Lauren Crothers is an international freelance journalist and photographer. You can find her on Instagram at Laurencro on Twitter at @Laurencro.
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