The Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) has rejected criticism from the Environmental Investigation Agency that it is failing to crack down on illegal Indonesian timber trade in the country’s free-trade zone (FTZ) ports.

The MTC’s response follows an accusation by the agency that 139 tonnes of Indonesian bangkirai logs were found at Pasir Gudang port.

A statement from the MTC said bangkirai was not listed as a threatened or endangered species, unlike ramin, and was commercially tradeable. It said the logs found were part of old timber stocks and were in transit in the FTZ.

The MTC said current national legislation covering FTZ areas does not permit the seizure or disposal of cargoes not listed under the prohibited items of FTZ, including ramin. It also said the regulator of imported timber, the Malaysia Timber Industry Board (MTIB), was unable to control timber movement within the FTZ, which is technically not in Malaysian territory.

MTIB intercepted an illegal Indonesian ramin shipment in West Port on May 13. The wood was being loaded into three waiting lorries when officials intervened.