Maritime supply chain actors brought together to step up collaborative efforts to tackle timber and wildlife trafficking in container shipping

Press Release
28 July 2021

Geneva, 28 July 2021 – A two-day Global Shipping Roundtable event to combat illegal wildlife and timber trade in containerized shipping brought together attendees representing 39 private shipping lines, freight forwarding companies and port operators, 18 public sector organizations, seven policy-making bodies, including the World Customs Organization (WCO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO), as well as 14 Non-Governmental Organizations.

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 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 organizers 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 digitization 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 emphasized that solutions lay in building stronger public and private sector relationships. Participants agreed that collaborative efforts should be prioritized 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.”


Notes to the Editors

The illegal trade of wildlife products is valued between $7-23 billion USD per year and is considered the fourth largest illicit trade after firearms, drugs, and human trafficking.

The event was co-organized by FIATA International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), TRAFFIC, WWF, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and United for Wildlife (UfW) and took place on 29-30 June.

The event offered an opportunity to share with participants information about tools such as the ‘Red flag indicators for wildlife and timber trafficking in containerized sea cargo: a compendium and guidance for the maritime shipping sector’ and the FIATA digital course for the prevention of wildlife trafficking as well as initiatives such as the UfW Transport taskforce.

Information was shared about the ongoing development of IMO guidelines "On The Prevention And Suppression Of The Smuggling Of Wildlife On Ships Engaged In International Maritime Traffic''. Participants were invited to engage in the review process later this year.


Media Contact

For any queries, please contact:

Claudia Marquina, FIATA | Email: [email protected] | Tel: +41 22 715 4553 

Abbie Pearce, TRAFFIC | Email: [email protected] |  Tel: +447921309176

Winnie Ng, WWF-Hong Kong | Email: [email protected] | Tel: +852 96409040


About Environmental Investigation Agency

EIA investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuse. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, tigers and pangolins, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops like palm oil. We work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by addressing the threats posed by plastic pollution, bycatch and commercial exploitation of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Finally, we reduce the impact of climate change by campaigning to eliminate powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases, exposing related illicit trade and improving energy efficiency in the cooling sector.


FIATA International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations is a nongovernmental, membership-based organization representing freight forwarders in some 150 countries. FIATA’s membership is composed of 109 Associations Members and more than 5,500 Individual Members, overall representing an industry of 40,000 freight forwarding and logistics firms worldwide. Based in Geneva, FIATA is ‘the global voice of freight logistics’


TRAFFIC is a leading non-governmental organization working to ensure that wildlife trade is not a threat to the conservation of nature. Our worldwide team carry out research, investigations and analysis to compile the evidence we use to catalyse action by governments, businesses and individuals, in collaboration with a wide range of partners, to help ensure that wildlife trade is not a threat to the conservation of nature.

About WWF

WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active through local leadership in nearly 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit for the latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media

About United for Wildlife

Led by Prince William and The Royal Foundation, United for Wildlife aims to make it impossible for traffickers to transport, finance or profit from illegal wildlife products. By working collaboratively with the transport and finance sectors, building key partnerships with NGOs, and sharing information and best practices across the sectors, they detect and disrupt illegal wildlife trade activity. For more information:


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) / World Customs Organization (WCO) - Container Control Programme (CCP) was developed to assist governments in establishing sustainable enforcement structures called Port Control Units (PCU) in seaports and seeks to improve the risk profiling capacities of port control officials to fight illicit trade of drugs, weapons, counterfeit products, wildlife products, and other trafficked items, in containerized transport.

LEAP is a partnership between UNODC, INTERPOL, and RHIPTO-Norwegian Center for Global Analyses seeking to share expertise and build global networks to fight illegal deforestation and related crimes. LEAP assists Member States by supporting law enforcement in key countries across Latin America and Southeast Asia. By providing assistance in the fight against tropical deforestation, LEAP contributes to tackling climate change and to achieving the SDGs.