Above: The vessel Molly Manx (IMO 9425863) is seen discharging phosphate rock at the port of Napier, New Zealand, in August 2016. The vessel is owned and operated by the UK/Isle of Man company LT Ugland Shipping Group.
Western Sahara Resource Watch last week published the report 'Carriers of Conflict' outlining all companies operating and owning the vessels transporting phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara. The industry gives the Moroccan government over USD 200 million income annually, according to WSRW’s estimates.
One of the companies mentioned is the Isle of Man headquartered bulk shipping company LT Ugland. Today it commented on its involvement for the first time.
«In the future we will exclude Western Sahara from those areas from which want to make shipments. We will not undertake more transports from there until the issue has been settled”, Mr. Lars T. Ugland, chairman of LT Ugland, told the Norwegian business newspaper Finansavisen on 20 June 2017.
Last year, the company's vessel Molly Manx, shipped an estimated 54,000 tonnes of phosphate rock to New Zealand fertilizer producing company Ravensdown. It is one of the 46 vessels named in the WSRW report last week.
The issue of fertilizer exports from the occupied territory has over the course of the last month reached international media, as a vessel is currently detained in South Africa, where it stopped to refuel on the way to New Zealand. NM Cherry Blossom has today been detained for 50 days, and a trial to decide the ownership of the conflict mineral is to start later this year.
Also the Norwegian shipping company Belships today expressed that it had ended up in a transport from Western Sahara really without it intending it. In June 2016, the Ultrabulk vessel Ultra Rocanville shipped phosphates from the territory to Agrium in Canada. Ultrabulk was the commercial manager, while Belships had the technical part.
“As a technical manager, we are totally in the backseat when it comes to commercial decisions. Our responsibility is limited to crewing, maintenance, class contact etc”, CEO of Belships ASA, Mr. Ulrich Müller explained to Finansavisen.
“Bulk vessels under our commercial management have never called in Western Sahara. We have no intention to make such calls in the future, and we will to the best of our ability follow the advice from the [Norwegian] government”, he told.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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