An illegally logged tree, felled in the diminishing forests of Papua New Guinea, may well end up becoming floorboards in a Sydney living room, or a bookcase in a home in Seattle.
Illegal logging contributes between 15% and 30% of the global wood trade, according to Interpol. China is a major buyer of the world’s illegal timber, according to environmental groups, especially from Pacific nations like PNG and Solomon Islands, which are implicated in illegal or unsustainable logging.
The path of this timber, from Pacific forests to western homes via carrier ships and Chinese factories is a murky one. But – according to shipping and customs data, and the findings of a two-year investigation by the international NGO Global Witness – it looks something like this:
Once the logs are felled, in, say the Pomio district of East New Britain province, they are put on to a large bulk carrier ship, possibly registered to Panama, where they spend about 14 days on the open sea before arriving in China. More than 90% of wood exports from PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu end up in China.
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