The Gambia tells port officials to stop all timber exports

The Gambia on Friday July 1st banned timber exports and permanently revoked all timber export licences, with immediate effect. The ban targets the export of the highly prized African Rosewood tree, which is nearly extinct.

Following the ban, the government instructed port authorities to refuse to load any timber logs onto any vessel. It said that random searches of containers should be heightened.

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

The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau are the 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. In terms of value and volume, rosewood timber is one of the most trafficked wildlife products in the world.

The Banjul Port was seen as an important conduit in rosewood exports out of Gambia, and in July 2020 France-based shipping line CMA CGM suspended timber exports from Gambia. It said at the time that “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.”

In May this year the IMO adopted new guidelines for prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international maritime traffic.