THAILAND LEADS ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE (IWT) FIGHT IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: GOVERNMENT REGULATORS AND GLOBAL MARITIME INDUSTRY TITANS MEET IN BANGKOK TO COUNTER IWT
Posted on 14 December 2022
The International Maritime Organization (IMO), WWF and the Marine Department of the Royal Thai Government with support from GIZ, USAID, UNDP, and WCO organized a workshop in Bangkok to launch a set of IMO Guidelines for the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international maritime traffic.
Globally, Thailand is the first country to host and launch such an event to implement a new United Nations (UN) guidelines on wildlife trafficking for the maritime sector.
In his keynote speech, Deputy Director General Somchai Sumanuskajonkul of the Marine Department of the Thai Ministry of Transport encouraged the participants “to optimize the workshop to learn and share experiences, enhance cooperation, and build partnerships to stop illegal wildlife trafficking in Thailand and in the region.”
As one of the leading global trading hubs in the world, Thailand plays a crucial role in the global chain of supply and demand for trafficked wildlife. With its rich biodiversity, strategic location, and modern transport infrastructures, Thailand is a source, transit, and consumer country for a wide range of protected plant and animal species.
“ALL HANDS ON DECK: Thailand Maritime Stakeholder Workshop to Detect and Investigate Wildlife Trafficking in International Maritime Supply Chains” was a two-day event (Dec 6-7) in Bangkok that signals the implementation in Thailand of the newly adopted International Maritime Organization (IMO) Guidelines for the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international maritime traffic. The IMO is a specialized agency of the UN and is the global standard-setting authority for international shipping.
The new guidelines are seen as a groundbreaking critical mandate by global industry leaders that highlights measures and procedures available to the private sector and government agencies to combat wildlife trafficking in the maritime industry. The Guidelines enumerate measures to prevent, detect and report wildlife trafficking in the maritime sector. It also proposes strategies centered on due diligence, responsibility-sharing, and cooperation among all stakeholders along the supply chains.
The Guidelines were adopted early this year during the 46th Meeting of the Facilitation Committee (FAL 46) of the IMO in May 2022, where the Royal Thai Government played a major role in leading its review and passage by the IMO plenary.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Julian Abril, Head of Facilitation at the IMO and the Secretary of the IMO’s Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL) underscored Thailand’s critical role in the adoption of the Guidelines by the council of states when it “hosted an event to push for the adoption and approval of the Guidelines by member-states while also proposing the hosting of national workshops to promote the adoption of the Guidelines among countries.” He adds that as “Thailand leads the way in the adoption of the Guidelines in the region, IMO is studying the replication of the workshop in other countries using the organization’s technical cooperation funds.”
Around 90 government regulators and leaders from the maritime industry in Thailand attended the workshop. Together with specialists from the global shipping industry associations, experts from development organizations, and observers from other countries, they learn about the tools and instruments outlined by the Guidelines that can help them put a stop to illegal wildlife trade. The governments of Kenya, Vietnam, the United States, the Asia Pacific Regional Intelligence Liaison Office of the World Customs Organization (RILO AP), and various United Nations (UN) agencies participated and contributed to strategic and tactical actions to implement the new IMO guidelines in Thailand.
Ambassador Nancy Karigitu, Kenya’s Principal Secretary of the State Department of Maritime and Shipping who attended the event as a special guest of the Royal Thai Government said that the efforts by the two governments to push for the global adoption of the Guidelines highlight the value of cooperation by stakeholders. In her speech to the plenary, she stressed that governments must not only lead efforts on IWT but must also “network with local, national, regional or international initiatives” and that these must be “aimed at strengthening cooperation between the public and private sectors, encouraging them to share information and intelligence on wildlife trafficking as well as dissemination of best practices.”
Aside from the Thai Marine Department, Customs Department, CITES Management Authorities, Royal Thai Police, Office of the Attorney General (OAG), Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO); leaders from the Thai International Cargo and Container Terminals Association (TICTA) and Bangkok Shipowners and Agents Association (BSAA) also supported the event. Global industry representatives from the World Shipping Council (WSC) and United for Wildlife of the Royal Foundation of the Prince and Princess of Wales were also present to lend expert support on industry updates and commitments. Partners from the industry and civil society sector also contributed to the event like the Environmental Intelligence Agency (EIA), TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Justice Commission, Compagnie Maritime d'Affrètement and Compagnie Générale Maritime (CMA-CGM), Ocean Network Express Holdings (ONE), Hutchinson Ports, World Animal Health Organization (WOAH), Grace Farms Foundation, Standard Chartered Bank and Swire Shipping.
Mr. Piset Rittapirom, BSAA Chairman and Thailand Country Manager of Sealand Maersk, reiterated the commitment of its members to the cause of fighting IWT during the private sector deep dive into the maritime supply chain panel discussion. This fight, he adds, “is not only to support our association’s civic duty to the society but as parents, we also have the obligation to our children’s future.” Founded in 1968, industry behemoth BSAA represents shipping lines and agents, logistics providers, port operators, trucking companies, law firms with interests in maritime law, transportation management companies, and other maritime-related agencies.
The illegal wildlife trade is now a multi-billion-dollar transnational criminal activity. It is recognized by many as a threat to our future, pushing many species such as Pangolins, Sharks, Elephants, and Rhinos to the brink of extinction. In many countries, it threatens national security, undermines the rule of law, fuels corruption, and robs communities of legitimate economic livelihoods. More recently, experts worldwide raised the risk of the emergence and spread of zoonotic disease from trafficked wildlife as a significant global health concern.
The workshop yielded multiple tangible public-private partnership commitments and actions that will be implemented in support of the new IMO guidelines such as localization of tools for the maritime sector, use of new technologies and apps, information-sharing, expansion of national task forces to include maritime sector representatives, a more tactical field training on the guidelines in Thailand, and replication of the Thailand event in Asia and Africa. The formal report will be endorsed to the 47th Meeting of the FAL Committee in March 2023 by relevant parties.
The “ALL HANDS ON DECK” event was also supported by the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Customs Organization (WCO) Regional Office for Capacity Building for Asia Pacific, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
All Hands on Deck - a workshop organized to help the maritime sector combat IWT and launch a set of IMO Guidelines