Singapore seizes tusks from 300 elephants in ivory haul worth $12.9 million

Authorities in Singapore have stopped a shipment of almost 9 tonnes (9.9 US tons) of ivory, the largest seizure of its kind in the nation’s history. The 8.8-tonne (9.7-US ton) haul was passing through Singapore on its way from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Vietnam, according to a joint statement from the Singapore Customs, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the National Parks Board released Tuesday.

There were also 11.9 tonnes (13.1 US tons) of pangolin scales among the illicit cargo, the third such shipment to be intercepted in Singapore this year.Three containers said to contain timber were inspected as they passed through Singapore on July 21, revealing the huge illegal cache.

Authorities say the ivory, with tusks from nearly 300 elephants, is worth $12.9 million; the pangolin scales, estimated to have been taken from around 2,000 Giant Ground Pangolins, would fetch around $35.7 million.

Pangolins are solitary animals that have an armor of scales, which are coveted for “cultural and ethno-medicinal purposes,” according to the statement. They are also hunted for their meat.

The seizure takes the total weight of pangolin scales stopped in Singapore to 37.5 tonnes (41.3 US tons) in 2019 alone. Singapore previously seized 177 kilograms (390 pounds) of ivory in April.

In Africa, poachers kill tens of thousands of elephants a year for their tusks. Much of the demand for elephant tusks comes from China, where ivory is still seen by some as a symbol of luxury and wealth. 

“Around 55 African elephants are killed for their ivory a day, their tusks turned into carvings and trinkets,” Tanya Steele, chief executive at World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement.

Source: CNN, Jack Guy, 24 July 2019

Rwanda-DRC Border trade feels pinch from political stand-off

Spare a thought for the informal traders in this region. The terminology is also somewhat humorous, if not ‘offensive’ to an overly liberal mind – democratic South Africans in particular.

Trade along the Rwanda-DRC border is still going strong, although with some difficulty, despite the ongoing political tensions between the two neighbors.The Rwanda Focus visited Gisenyi, from where it has been reported that several Rwandan civilians who have attempted to cross into DRC for business have allegedly been arrested and tortured.

“You can’t go in there but if you insist, then be ready to die or to be tortured by the authorities in Congo,” said Safina Mukankusi, a cross-border trader. According to locals here, anyone with links to Rwanda in form of passport, looks or language is a target for the Congolese authorities. The irony is Gisenyi is full of Congolese civilians loaded with all sorts of merchandise bought from Rwandan markets which they then carry to the DRC.

It’s also here that massive petty smuggling takes place. “There are so many ‘fat’ women around here,” said a Rwandan customs official, explaining they are stuffed with several garments in which they then hide commodities such as alcohol and sell them on the Rwandan side at a profit. “Some make more than 20 trips per da,y often smuggling a single commodity per journey… but these are poor people who are looking for a meal from their petty deals,” the official revealed. From the proceeds from smuggled goods, the Congolese then buy food and all sorts of stuff which they take back home to sell.

With the current instability however, there’s a new development. “Many Congo-men are coming to sleep here at night and go back home during day for fear of attacks,” said Fidel, a resident of Gisenyi. He says most of them sleep on the streets while others have rented some cheap houses in which they spend the night, often in groups.

Looking at the people here, it’s quite hard to imagine that their country is home to some of the world’s most valuable minerals such as gold and diamonds. Bribes and other corrupt dealings are the quickest ways to get a service done according to Rwandan traders. “Once they know you have money, they will detain you until you part with some of it, it’s mostly those that don’t have anything who are tortured,” explained Laurent Makubu, who claims he has been detained but bribed the Congolese police with $15 to secure his freedom.

While the Congolese who cross to Rwanda report no harassment, it remains a mystery why their Rwandan counterparts are the target of mistreatment on the other side. As a result, most Rwandan traders say they have resorted to using Congolese middlemen to get goods from the DRC side but at a much higher cost as the middlemen charge for their service. Source: Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

The African transhipment race

Have you noticed the debate in the on-line Global Ports Forum about who will become the main container terminals in East and West Africa? Portstrategy.com has taken it upon themselves to score some of the suggestions.

Nigeria is strongly identified as a hub for the west coast of Africa – we score that 7 out of 10. It has the potential but will new port development be delivered in time? Will the off-take infrastructure development be implemented in concert with port development at places like Lekki? Will Lekki’s hub function be undermined by other deepwater facilities being delivered first on the African coast?

Generally, they agree with the view expressed by one wise head in the Forum that the race for hub status on the West African coast is now a fierce one. However, we don’t agree with the contention that Angola will have a serious say in becoming a major hub for West Africa. It will struggle for some time yet to meet its own port capacity needs let alone fulfil a regional function. We score this suggestion 2 out of 10; go to the bottom of the class!

South Africa as a hub for East and West Africa? Well to a limited extent it does already fulfil this role but when South Africa booms its priority has to be gateway cargo and it is limited in terms of its economic and geographical reach. It is also not ideal because of position; we won’t score the suggestion down but conversely we also won’t score it up because it is a fair point. We do, however, see as a negative the continuing emphasis on the public operation of this country’s ports – it spells very high cost comparatively speaking and coupled with this, ironically, not the best service.

Doraleh Container Terminal, Djibouti? Yes we would agree that this has a role to play in container transhipment for East Africa and particularly with its phase two expansion now underway. The price is right for transhipment here but the cost of cargo movement to the main transit destination of Ethiopia is coming in for increasing criticism. It also has a limited reach along the East Coast. Another score of 7.

Mombasa? Yes huge potential for the East Coast of Africa but as history shows no political will to deliver new port capacity in line with demand. Nine in theory but five in practice.

The new port of Lamu? Designed to act as an export gateway for South Sudan, construction has begun on the $23bn (£14.5bn) port project and oil refinery in south-east Kenya’s coastal Lamu region near war-torn Somalia’s border. With a planned multi-purpose port function, because it is a ‘clean slate’ it could take on the hub function. Another 7.

So what is Port Strategy’s view?

In West Africa, we note that new purpose-built, deep draft container port capacity has either recently been installed or is about to be installed in West Africa in six or seven locations. In Lome in Togo and Pointe Noire in the Congo, for example, new facilities are set to come on-stream by end 2014 at the latest which will be able to handle vessels of up to 7,000 teu. We therefore suggest that there will be a split of hubbing activity between all these locations but with the first two or three terminals on-line grabbing the main part of transhipment activity. We also see a continuing role in the short-term at least for hubs such as Algeciras that ‘face’ Africa.

In East Africa we cannot escape the logic of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam but will they pick up the pace quick enough to seize the opportunity? Sadly, not so far. Lamu, therefore, may have a big role to play. Source: Portstrategy.com