With around 800 million 20 TEU containers annually shipped worldwide, tackling the exploitation of the maritime shipping industry to traffic contraband calls for collaboration across all actors in the trade chain. Digitisation and technological advancement will be key to support future efforts, in combination with improved public-private collaboration and capacity building.
A two-day global Shipping Roundtable event to combat illegal wildlife and timber trade in containerised shipping brought together attendees representing 39 private shipping lines, freight forwarding companies, and port operators, 18 public sector organisations, seven policy-making bodies, including the World Customs Organization (WCO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO), as well as 14 Non-Governmental Organisations.
The event presented a unique opportunity to hear insights, recommendations, and the individual and collective needs of the private sector that will form the basis of further efforts to drive progress in combating this illicit trade.
“One of the major challenges in tackling wildlife trafficking lies in the diversity of actors involved in the supply chain: custom brokers, shippers, freight forwarders, agents, insurers, customers, inspection companies, and so on,” said Dr Stéphane Graber, FIATA Director General, in his opening remarks. “Initiatives like this roundtable, gathering all concerned and impacted stakeholders, is key to preventing wildlife trafficking.”
Containerized shipping is a vital part of the global economy, but traffickers misuse these services to transport wildlife and timber and other contraband illegally. As Richard Scobey, TRAFFIC Executive Director, said in a keynote address, “legitimate transport services have been exploited by wildlife traffickers to move contraband from source to market; and container shipping is by far the most widely chosen method of transport for large quantities of illicit wildlife products – such as elephant ivory, pangolin scales, protected timber, and a variety of marine species.”
Traffickers use maritime transport because they are often able to move contraband through its supply chains undetected. Less than 2% of the 800 million 20ft TEUs containers can be efficiently inspected, according to Anton Huitema, Affiliated Expert Trainer, UNODC. During the event, most industry participants assessed themselves to have a ‘low’ or ‘middle’ level of capacity to understand and act on wildlife and timber trafficking activities.
Over the course of the two days, attendees discussed the main challenges faced by the industry and practical actions that could be taken to address them.
Discussions about training showed that building capacity would require new thinking and adapted approaches that assure accessibility and quality, make training better tailored to the different corporate roles, and ensure the content remains up to date and engaging. In response to a request from the industry, the roundtable organisers will compile and make available a list of all relevant existing training resources open to the maritime sector to upgrade their skills and knowledge on tackling wildlife and timber trafficking.
Participants also highlighted how digitisation and technological advancement would make a crucial difference in tackling illicit trade by improving the efficiency of risk management, customer due diligence and developing a universally accessible list of known wildlife traffickers. However, participants suggested that success would hinge on ensuring coordination between different parts of the industry and other initiatives through interoperability and common approaches.
Overall, the deliberations emphasised that solutions lay in building stronger public and private sector relationships. Participants agreed that collaborative efforts should be prioritised in wildlife trafficking ‘high-risk’ geographical hotspots. Initiatives such as the UfW Regional Task Forces could provide an important framework to support this effort.
The events content and participatory approach were well received by the roundtable attendees. As Nicole Quijano-Evans, Coordinator of UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme Law Enforcement Assistance Programme, UNODC said, “I’m really impressed by the variety of stakeholders that were present here during these two days and participated very actively in this workshop. For me – having mostly interacted in the public sector with government, law enforcement, etc., – it was always sort of a great wish and need to more actively engage with the private sector and also see how we can bridge the two sectors together better. I think these two days were a very good step to come closer together, and it was very encouraging to see that there is a huge willingness from each side to work together and come up with ideas from many perspectives.”
Sea News Feature, July 28