Rainforest timber shipment blocked in Papua New Guinea

Posted by jamie — 3 September 2008 at 5:49pm - Comments

A banner hangs from the Harbour Gemini which is carrying illegal timber from Papua New Guinea

A Greenpeace team occupies the Harbour Gemini, carrying illegal timber from Papua New Guinea and bound for China
© Sutton-Hibbert/Greenpeace

As we wait for the European Commission to consider legislation to prevent illegal timber from entering Europe, a Greenpeace team in Papua New Guinea have stepped in to prevent a ship from loading up with wood of dubious provenance.

The ship, Harbour Gemini, was loading timber at Paia Inlet in Gulf Province, when four activists from our ship the Esperanza climbed a loading crane to hang a huge banner reading 'Protect Forests, Save Our Climate'. Looking on were groups of local people in boats, while others held their own peaceful protests at the port and nearby logging camps.

The action is part of a tour by the Esperanza of Papua New Guinea which began in the capital Port Moresby last week. The aim is to draw attention to the frightening rate at which the country's pristine forests are being decimated and the impact this will have on climate change.

A Papuan campaigner protests about deforestation

The timber being loaded onto the Harbour Gemini was bound for China, where one in every four tropical hardwood logs imported started life in Papua New Guinea. As we've detailed in the past, most of these are processed into plywood and re-exported to other parts of the world, particularly Europe which was China's second biggest customer for plywood in 2006.

To combat the problem of rampant deforestation, Papua New Guinea has been asking for financial assistance to protect its forests but the government has a very poor forest management record, wrapped in accusations of corruption and misappropriation of funds.

So action needs to be taken on both sides of the globe - improving forest management and policing in Papua New Guinea, and controlling imports of illegally logged timber in Europe and elsewhere. It's an international problem which requires international solutions, not least because climate change affects everyone, so if you want to help out, write to José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, and explain why we need to make illegal timber, well, illegal. Or make your own Forest Love video.

There'll be more from the Esperanza in the coming weeks but if you can't wait, take a look at the webcam beaming images of the East Indies live from the ship. I'll be keeping a particularly close eye on how events progress as I'm off to join the ship for a spell next month

Update: A fantastic video from the action has come through via the Greenpeace Australia Pacific website.

Update 2, 6 September 2008: After 55 hours, on Friday evening the climbers on top of the crane were removed peacefully by armed police but no arrests were made. However, the logging company involved - Turama Forest Industries, part of the Rimbunan Hijau group - have finally agreed to conduct a review of their logging agreement which local resource owners have been requesting for 13 years.

As always, it's a step in the right direction and the Greenpeace team in Papua New Guinea will be watching developments closely, but big improvements need to be made in forest management at a national level (plus that EU legislation) if these rainforests are going to be protected.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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