Highly durable and aesthetically beautiful Burmese teak is prized for boat decking, particularly in luxury yachts, but natural teak from Myanmar is often exported illegally.According to a recent alert from Britain’s Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), many British-made luxury yachts contain decking from illegally-sourced Burmese teak despite EU regulations in place to prevent its sale and export.Luxury yacht companies interviewed at the London Boat Show stress that although they plan on investigating their supply chains, they maintain that their Burmese teak decking is legally and ethically-sourced. LONDON – Illegal teak from Myanmar is still likely entering the supply chains of some major luxury yacht makers and ending up as decking, says one environmental defense organization. In a statement released before the London Boat Show earlier this month, Britain’s Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warned that two of the show’s main exhibitors could be selling boats that contain illegal teak from Myanmar. Sunseeker and Princess have since said that they will work with government officials in Britain to evaluate the integrity of their supply chains. According to the EIA, the “Burmese teak entering the supply chains of the UK’s two largest yacht builders, Sunseeker International and Princess Yachts International, was traded in breach of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR).” The EU Timber Regulation, which came into force in 2013, requires companies bringing teak into the EU to perform the due diligence necessary to ensure their risk of importing illegally logged timber is negligible. Burmese teak (Tectona grandis) is native to southern Asia and is sought-after for its superior resistance to rot, decay, and termites. Though it is grown on plantations all over the world, Burmese teak is native to Myanmar where it is often illegally-logged and illegally-exported. Exact numbers are difficult to determine, but at a bare minimum, hundreds of thousands of tons of illegal timber are exported from Myanmar illegally every year through various land and water routes. According to the EIA’s research, the highly sought-after teak enters the supply chains of two luxury yacht companies through several international outfits. Supply companies Moody Decking and D.A. Watts & Sons purchase timber from NHG Timber and Belgian firm Vandercasteele Houtimport. A spokesperson for Princess told Mongabay that they don’t have any business with NHG Timber. Sunseeker said they are not certain. Alarms It’s not the first time that the EIA and others have noted the fallibility of natural Burmese teak’s supply chain integrity. The UK Timber Trade Federation warned members in March last year: “Myanmar remains a very high risk country with which to trade timber.” It advised fastidiousness in obtaining full documentation from source to seller. Teak decking on a luxury yacht at the London Boat Show, January 2018. Photo by Sophie Cohen/Mongabay. “It becomes very difficult to conduct due diligence, and to therefore prove that your risk has been reduced to negligible.” According to email correspondence shown to Mongabay between the EIA and Belgium’s Federal Public Service for Health, Food Chain Safety and the Environment, Vandercasteele Houtinimport was found guilty of breaching the EUTR’s art.4§2 at the beginning of 2017. Notices of remedial action were sent out on the 23rd May that year for failing to meet due diligence requirements for Burmese teak entering the EU Market, with instructions to “stop immediately the import of Burmese teak until they are able to fulfill [due diligence] requirements.” The Belgian competent authority for the EUTR reaffirmed this to Mongabay, adding that further checks on Vandercasteele Houtinimport concerning Myanmar were made in November and December 2017. Those investigations are ongoing. Mongabay was also shown correspondence between the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the EIA, after the EIA released guidelines for Burmese teak purchasing due diligence in late 2016. This stated that the UK Regulatory Delivery investigated NHG Timber for the placement of teak from Myanmar on the UK Market, and found that its system for due diligence was not compliant with EUTR requirements. Enforcement action was taken against NHG for breaching those requirements, and a Notice of Remedial Action was issued. Representatives for NHG Timber did not respond to Mongabay by publication. Disconnects and delays At the London Boat Show, representatives for Princess and Sunseeker told Mongabay that, despite attempts to contact the EIA, the organization had not shared evidence about these allegations. Both companies reiterated earlier commitments to investigate the claims. In response, the EIA said it published its first alert on the risks associated with Burmese teak back in December 2013. Mongabay has since shared evidence received by the EIA with the concerned companies. Both Princess and Sunseeker said they would first need to examine that evidence before responding to further questions. “As far as we’re aware, according to our investigation, we’re not in breach,” said Simon Clare, marketing director for Sunseeker in an interview. “There is ethically-sourced teak out there. We believe that’s in our supply chain. We’ve done our due diligence as much as we believe is physically possible.” Meetings are regularly held between the company and Vandercasteele, which contributes 90 percent of Sunseeker’s teak supplies, although Clare could not confirm whether NHG Timber, a supplier in the past, was still in the supply chain. Teak supplies to Sunseeker were audited at least once a year, “as far back to its source to make sure it is ethically sourced,” he said.