Global Shipping Roundtable

Published 28 July 2021


Maritime supply chain actors brought together to step up collaborative efforts to tackle timber and wildlife trafficking in container shipping

With around 800 million 20ft TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) containers annually shipped worldwide, tackling the exploitation of the maritime shipping industry to traffic contraband calls for collaboration across all actors in the trade chain. Digitisation and technological advancement will be key to support future efforts, in combination with improved public-private collaboration and capacity building.

A two-day global Shipping Roundtable event to combat illegal wildlife and timber trade in containerised shipping brought together attendees representing 39 private shipping lines, freight forwarding companies, and port operators, 18 public sector organisations, seven policy-making bodies, including the World Customs Organization (WCO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO), as well as 14 Non-Governmental Organisations.

The event presented a unique opportunity to hear insights, recommendations, and the individual and collective needs of the private sector that will form the basis of further efforts to drive progress in combating this illicit trade.

“One of the major challenges in tackling wildlife trafficking lies in the diversity of actors involved in the supply chain: custom brokers, shippers, freight forwarders, agents, insurers, customers, inspection companies, and so on,” said Dr Stéphane Graber, FIATA Director General, in his opening remarks.

Initiatives like this roundtable, gathering all concerned and impacted stakeholders, is key to preventing wildlife trafficking.”

Dr Stéphane Graber, FIATA Director GeneralContainerized shipping is a vital part of the global economy, but traffickers misuse these services to transport wildlife and timber and other contraband illegally. 

Legitimate transport services have been exploited by wildlife traffickers to move contraband from source to market; and container shipping is by far the most widely chosen method of transport for large quantities of illicit wildlife products – such as elephant ivory, pangolin scales, protected timber, and a variety of marine species.”

Richard Scobey, TRAFFIC Executive DirectorTraffickers use maritime transport because they are often able to move contraband through its supply chains undetected. Less than 2% of the 800 million 20ft TEUs containers can be efficiently inspected, according to Anton Huitema, Affiliated Expert Trainer, UNODC. During the event, most industry participants assessed themselves to have a ‘low’ or ‘middle’ level of capacity to understand and act on wildlife and timber trafficking activities.

Over the course of the two days, attendees discussed the main challenges faced by the industry and practical actions that could be taken to address them.

Discussions about training showed that building capacity would require new thinking and adapted approaches that assure accessibility and quality, make training better tailored to the different corporate roles, and ensure the content remains up to date and engaging. In response to a request from the industry, the roundtable organisers will compile and make available a list of all relevant existing training resources open to the maritime sector to upgrade their skills and knowledge on tackling wildlife and timber trafficking.

Participants also highlighted how digitisation and technological advancement would make a crucial difference in tackling illicit trade by improving the efficiency of risk management, customer due diligence and developing a universally accessible list of known wildlife traffickers. However, participants suggested that success would hinge on ensuring coordination between different parts of the industry and other initiatives through interoperability and common approaches.

Overall, the deliberations emphasised that solutions lay in building stronger public and private sector relationships. Participants agreed that collaborative efforts should be prioritised in wildlife trafficking ‘high-risk’ geographical hotspots. Initiatives such as the UfW Regional Task Forces could provide an important framework to support this effort.

The events content and participatory approach were well received by the roundtable attendees. As Nicole Quijano-Evans, Coordinator of UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme Law Enforcement Assistance Programme, UNODC said, “I’m really impressed by the variety of stakeholders that were present here during these two days and participated very actively in this workshop. For me – having mostly interacted in the public sector with government, law enforcement, etc., – it was always sort of a great wish and need to more actively engage with the private sector and also see how we can bridge the two sectors together better."

I think these two days were a very good step to come closer together, and it was very encouraging to see that there is a huge willingness from each side to work together and come up with ideas from many perspectives.”

Nicole Quijano-Evans, Coordinator of UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme Law Enforcement Assistance Programme, UNODC


The event was co-organised by FIATA International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), TRAFFIC, WWF, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and United for Wildlife (UfW). It took place on 29-30 June.

The event offered an opportunity to share with participants information about tools such as the ‘Red flag indicators for wildlife and timber trafficking in containerised sea cargo: a compendium and guidance for the maritime shipping sector’ and the FIATA digital course for the prevention of wildlife trafficking as well as initiatives such as the UfW Transport taskforce.

Information was shared about the ongoing development of IMO guidelines "On The Prevention And Suppression Of The Smuggling Of Wildlife On Ships Engaged In International Maritime Traffic''. Participants were invited to engage in the review process later this year.


FIATA International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations is a nongovernmental, membership-based organization representing freight forwarders in some 150 countries. FIATA’s membership is composed of 108 Associations Members and more than 5,800 Individual Members, overall representing an industry of 40,000 freight forwarding and logistics firms worldwide. Based in Geneva, FIATA is ‘the global voice of freight logistics’  

UNODC / WCO Container Control Programme

This Programme, operational since 2006 and now operating in more than 50 countries worldwide, brings together government agencies responsible for container and cargo security, and develops risk profiling skills to enable the identification of high risk shipments for further scrutiny. The programme has been responsible for many hundreds of seizures of illicit commodities since its inception. The UNODC Global Programme for Combatting Wildlife and Forest Crime complements the CCP with a comprehensive approach addressing “from scene of crime to court”, supporting countries to build their capacities to successfully investigate and prosecute these crimes in their respective criminal justice systems.

About United for Wildlife

United for Wildlife is an unprecedented alliance between seven of the world’s most influential conservation organisations and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. The collaboration between Conservation International (CI), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), WWF-UK, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and The Royal Foundation hopes to lead the way to substantially increase the global response to major conservation crisis.

About Environmental Investigation Agency

EIA investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuse. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, tigers and pangolins, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops like palm oil. We work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by addressing the threats posed by plastic pollution, bycatch and commercial exploitation of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Finally, we reduce the impact of climate change by campaigning to eliminate powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases, exposing related illicit trade and improving energy efficiency in the cooling sector.


WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 30 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit for the latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media.