Scandal of luxury yachts built in the UK with illegitimate Burmese teak
LONDON: As the London Boat Show opens this week (10-14 January) the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warned that two of the biggest exhibitors have been building yachts for the luxury market with illegitimate teak from Myanmar.
EIA research reveals that Burmese teak entering the supply chains of the UK’s two largest yacht builders, Sunseeker International and Princess Yachts International, was traded in breach of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR).
The EUTR has been in force since 2013 to combat illegal logging and the associated trade in stolen timber.
Sunseeker and Princess Yachts are both exhibiting at the London Boat Show and were reported in 2017 as having forward order books jointly worth more than £1billion; an overwhelming majority of these vessels will have Burmese teak decks.
NHG Timber and Belgian firm Vandercasteele Hout Import are suppliers of Burmese teak to the Sunseeker and Princess Yachts supply chains. The companies Moody Decking and D.A. Watts & Sons use this teak to produce decks for Sunseeker and Princess Yachts.
UK authorities have confirmed that NHG Timber has been found in breach of the EUTR for the trading of Burmese teak, a decision meaning that all firms known to be placing Burmese teak on the UK market have now been found in breach.
This action was taken by the UK EUTR competent authority – Regulatory Delivery at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – following the submission of cases by EIA and prohibits any of the firms from placing further Burmese teak on the market until they can show compliance with the law. Vandercasteele has also been found to be trading in breach of the EUTR and subjected to similar enforcement in Belgium following the submission of a case by EIA.
In a statement, EIA said: “Both Sunseeker and Princess Yachts contract Moody Decking and D.A. Watts & Sons to provide teak decking for their yachts. It appears that teak on these yachts traded since the EUTR came into force has been traded illegitimately. While the EUTR doesn’t regulate Sunseeker and Princess Yachts, their demand for Burmese teak is helping to drive trade in the UK and their customers are unwittingly receiving non-compliant wood products.
“Myanmar has acknowledged that combatting illegal logging and the associated criminal trade is a priority in addressing corruption and lack of transparency, but the ongoing demand for Burmese teak by European shipyards such as Sunseeker and Princess Yachts undermines this.
“If the companies are unable to source legally traded Burmese teak, then they must make use of readily available legal alternatives.”
The EUTR only regulates the act of first placement of timber. Regulated timber companies providing teak to the Princess and Sunseeker yacht supply chains include:
- NHG Timber (UK)
- Vandercasteele Hout Import (Belgium)
Each of these companies has been found in breach of the EUTR.
Decking companies supplying to the Princess and Sunseeker yacht supply chains are:
- Moody Decking (UK)
- D.A. Watts & Sons (UK)
These companies are not regulated by the EUTR.
- Forests Campaigner Peter Cooper via petercooper[at]eia-international.org
- Press & Communications Officer Paul Newman via paulnewman[at]eia-international.org or +44 20 7354 7983
- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
- Sunseeker International is a British luxury motor yacht manufacturer. Its headquarters and main assembly facility is in Poole Harbour, Dorset. The largest British boat builder, Sunseeker, produces about 300 yachts per year.
- Princess Yachts International is another major British motor yacht manufacturer, based in Plymouth, Devon, and also produces about 300 yachts per year.
- EUTR enforcement in the UK is the responsibility of Regulatory Delivery, a directorate within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
- The EUTR only regulates the act of ‘first placement’, so Princess and Sunseeker are not guilty of breaching the EUTR but are making use of illegitimately traded timber.
- The firms found guilty have failed to conduct EUTR Due Diligence, which requires anyone placing timber on the EU market to reduce any risks of illegality in their supply chains. EUTR competent authorities throughout Europe have agreed that, under current conditions, it is impossible to conduct Due Diligence on Burmese teak due to the extremely high risks of illegality and a fundamental lack of available information.
Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960