The Modern Express, the roll on / roll off vessel that came into trouble in the Bay of Biscay recently has arrived in Bilbao, Spain.
Whilst it appears that the vessel’s major listing has now been righted, the spotlight has now been turned towards the ship’s cargo. The 164m vessel was carrying 3600 tonnes of wood along with construction machinery from Gabon to Le Harve, France.
The question has been raised by Greenpeace that the vessel should be investigated for carriage of a cargo of illegal timber. Greenpeace claim that the timber that the Modern Express was transporting is of uncertain and illicit origin and is calling for the French and Spanish authorities to investigate.
Greenpeace suggested that the probability that the wood was illegally obtained could be high. “All countries that could potentially be the origin of the timber are part of the Congo Basin, a region where illegal logging is a widespread problem. The forestry sector in the region is beset by rampant corruption, a lack of transparency and a lack of proper monitoring and law enforcement on the ground,” the group said.
The operator of the Modern Express, ERLs director, Karim Chami, said in a statement that “the [cargo] is composed of four different species of lumber: Okan, Azobé, Movingui, [and] Tali.” None of these species appear on the United Nations’ list of endangered trees. Additionally, he said, the vessel was definitely not carrying whole logs, as “this type of vessel is not at all suitable for transporting [them].” Whole logs are typically shipped aboard general cargo vessels as breakbulk freight.
On its regular runs from Europe to West Africa, the Modern Express is loaded with vehicles heading south and lumber heading back.
Watch this space.
Image credit: REUTERS/Vincent West
Image credit: ERL
Source credit: Maritime Executive