Forest Stewardship Council


Tijmen Hennekes from the Forest Stewardship Council™ shows how shipbuilders can strengthen their contribution to forest conservation

If you aren’t sure yet: teak from Myanmar is out of the game. Whereas this is still a big issue for the industry, this article is intended to tell another side of the story. Shipyards and suppliers have many good alternatives at hand, with a documented positive impact on forests. They must only take that next step.

One example of a company that is committed to responsible forest management is Precious Woods ‘Compagnie Equatoriale des Bois’ (CEB) in Gabon. Since taking over CEB in 2007, Precious Woods has been using FSC standards for responsible management to run operations on close to 600,000 hectares of certified forest management concessions in Bambidié, Lelama, and Okondja in the Haut Ogooue and Ogooue – Lolo provinces situated in eastern Gabon.

The company’s unique approach to forest management includes social development, community engagement, biodiversity protection, and responsible harvesting and processing. They employ approximately 2,750 people who benefit from stable and rather prestigious jobs. At its Bambidie site, it has set up a health clinic and helped build a school, equipped with a playground and toilets, where about 800 children from different villages come to learn.

“The company only harvests two mature trees out of 380 per hectare every 25 years,” says David Zakamdi, Director of Sustainable Development at Precious Woods Gabon. Beyond its commitment to protect 10% of its forest set by national legislation, an additional 25% of its forest concessions are set as high value conservation areas. Precious Woods also produce species like Iroko as a viable alternative to teak. Iroko has similar physical and aesthetical characteristics to teak but comes with a label that ensures the species will not get overharvested. Iroko is also known for strength, durability, and resistance to rot – it is one of the few out of 70,000 tree species on the planet documented fit for ship decks – that is why it’s also called African teak.

Although plantation teak has built up a reputation for not having the same quality as Myanmar teak, plantations grow older every year and we see top quality teak coming in from various plantations over the world. Forest plantations are an essential part of the solution to deforestation. FSC plantations prioritise the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of ecosystems. They use responsible practices such as limited pesticide and herbicide use, reduced soil erosion, and increased forest regeneration to ensure that the forest remains healthy and productive.

Also, FSC certified plantations ensure fair labour practices and support of communities who are dependent on the forests. They provide employment opportunities, safety training programmes and fair wages for local people, and they prioritise the rights of indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities.

Forests play a key role in the combat against climate change, therefore, the shipbuilding industry must abolish deforestation from their supply chains and choose wood from responsibly managed forests– by choosing FSC certified timber. Ships include much more forest products than just teak for decking. Construction timber, interior panelling and cabinetry, floors, veneers, natural rubbers, and cork for insulations (or decking), are all materials that can potentially come from a well-managed forest.

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