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Greenpeace occupies timber ship in Belgium

Greenpeace occupies timber ship in Belgium in bid to save orang-utans and tigers from extinction

Greenpeace calls on Belgian Government to seize shipment and stop illegal timber trade

Brussels, Amsterdam, 19 March 2004 - Greenpeace today demanded that the Belgian Government seize a huge cargo ship in the port of Antwerp loaded with timber from Indonesia's rainforests where logging is threatening the survival of orang-utans and tigers. Greenpeace boarded the ship at 15:00 hrs this afternoon in an attempt to stop it delivering its cargo to the Belgian port of Antwerp. Greenpeace researchers have been tracking the cargo ship since it was loaded with rainforest timber in Indonesia in early February.

The Greenpeace ship the MV Esperanza has been following the MV Greveno for several days after it entered European waters. Greenpeace volunteers have today used inflatables, launched from a second Greenpeace ship, the MV Argus, and caving hook ladders to board the Greveno. Two activists are currently on board the ship. This was the sixth attempt to board the ship this week. The load is destined for Antwerp, from where some of the timber will be transported to The Netherlands.

The timber onboard is being supplied by Korindo, a company proven to be using illegal timber from the last rainforests of Indonesia and Tjipta, whose logs come from an area where illegal and destructive logging is threatening the survival of the Sumatran tiger. An Indonesian Government investigation has found that Korindo buys from notorious timber barons commonly known to obtain timber from an orang-utan refuge, Tanjung Puting National Park (2), where aerial photography by Greenpeace has recently revealed further evidence of illegal clear-cutting. Latest estimates show that nearly half the national park has been damaged.

Greenpeace International forest campaigner, Gavin Edwards said, 'The logging, export and sale of this timber is nothing short of organised crime. Behind each sheet of plywood that originates from Indonesia's rainforests there is a web of criminal activity, corruption and bloodshed. Governments worldwide must reject this criminal timber and shut down the market for illegal wood before the Indonesian rainforest is gone and orang-utans and tigers are only found in zoos.'

In Indonesia up to 90% of all logging is illegal and the industry is linked to corruption, violence and human rights abuses (3). A World Bank/WWF report concluded that probably every single log in Indonesia is 'characterised by the breaking or manipulating of some regulation' (4). Mr Prakosa, Indonesia's Minister of Forestry, admitted on 11 March 2004 at a press conference, that illegal logging was out of control.

Indonesia's rainforest is disappearing faster than any other rainforest in the world. An area the size of Belgium is destroyed every year and experts predict that by 2010 most of Indonesia's lowland rainforests will be gone from Sumatra and Borneo. The Indonesian rainforest is a haven for wildlife, with the longest list of endangered species in the world. This includes the orang-utan, which is only found in Sumatra and Borneo (5) and whose numbers have halved in just 10 years and the Sumatran tiger, of which less than 500 remain. The World Bank has described Indonesia as facing 'a species extinction spasm of planetary proportions' (6).

Fifty million people depend on the rainforest for hunting, fishing and making rattan and honey (7). If the forest is lost, their livelihoods will be too.

While many European Governments have spoken out against the illegal trade in timber, tougher rules are required to stop illegally logged timber being imported. Greenpeace believes that the EU must introduce new legislation under the FLEGT Action Plan (8) to make it a crime to import and market illegally logged timber and wood products. Hapsoro, a campaigner from the Indonesian environmental group Telapak (9), said: 'Cargoes of timber like this one are driving rainforest destruction and human rights abuses in Indonesia so that rich countries can get cheap plywood. Indonesia needs help to enforce its laws, that is why European Governments must now take action to ban the import of illegal timber.'

Editors Notes:

(1) The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label provides the only truly independent guarantee that timber products have come from well-managed forests.

(2) Korindo's Ariabima Sari mill, where this plywood was loaded, was inspected by Indonesian Department of Forestry Inspectors in May 2003 and found to be using illegal logs purchased from the notorious Rasyid family, well known for trade in illegal timber from Tanjung Putting National Park (see for example 'Illegal Logging in 'Tanjung Puting National Park' at http://www.eia-international.org.) The mill is also breaching Indonesian regulation PP13 1995, through operating at approximately 165% its licensed capacity. In late 2003 Korindo refused to participate in a UK trade initiative to assess the 'legality' of Indonesian timber operations. This was confirmed in a meeting with the UK Timber Federation in February 2004. The mill has also been supplied by Muslim Halim, another company previously known to be using illegal timber from Tanjung Puting National Park. The second company who's plywood is onboard, is Tjipta who operate in Sumatra without access to their own forest concession. The company purchases timber from the open market in an area renowned for illegal logging.

(3) 'Partners in Crime: A Greenpeace Investigation of the links between the UK and Indonesia's timber barons' at www.saveordelete.com

(4) 'Partners in Crime: A Greenpeace Investigation of the links between the UK and Indonesia's timber barons' at www.saveordelete.com and D W Brown WWF/World Bank Alliance, 17 October 2002.

(5) WWF estimate, Press release 'Orang-utans face extinction' 12 January 2004.

(6) 'Partners in Crime: A Greenpeace Investigation of the links between the UK and Indonesia's timber barons' at www.saveordelete.com

(7) World Bank (2001), Indonesia: Environment and Natural Resource Management in a Time of Transition.

(8) The European FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance & Trade) Action Plan was presented by the European Commission to the European Member States in May 2003. It aims at developing a new set of measures to combat illegal logging and related trade. http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/flegt/intro/ip03_718.htm

(9) Telapak is an Indonesian NGO working on environmental issues including illegal logging.

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