Afrol: Global shipping shies away from Western Sahara phosphates

A third international shipping company has bowed into pressure to quit its assignments in ports in occupied Western Sahara. The Hong Kong-based shipping company Jinhui Shipping thus follows Norway's two shipping companies Arnesen Shipbrokers and R-Bulk, which have stopped shipping out phosphates from the territory. More are expected to follow. Afrol News, 5 june 2008.
Published: 05.06 - 2008 20:59Printer version    
Afrol News
5 June 2008

In February, Jinhui Shipping was exposed to be involved in transporting phosphates from Western Sahara, a territory occupied by Morocco. Video footage from New Zealand showed the phosphates being discharged there. The extraction and export of natural resources from Western Sahara has been deemed illegal by the UN and violates the wishes of the people of Western Sahara, the Sahrawis.

Pro-Sahrawi activist groups since have directed their campaigns against the Hong Kong shipping company, which technically is registered at the Oslo Stock Exchange. The daily newspaper 'South China Morning Post' now reports that the lobbying has born fruits. "Being headquartered in Asia, we confess we knew nothing about Western Sahara. We have only had this one charter ... but now that we understand the issue we will not directly contract any more business out of there," Jinhui Shipping vice-president, Raymond Ching, told the newspaper.

Thereby, a total of three shipping companies who have confirmed they do not longer want to take on new business in Western Sahara. It started with Norway's Arnesen Shipbrokers in November 2007, and thereafter Jinhui and R-Bulk of Bergen, Norway, in May.

The involvement of the shipping company R-Bulk was discovered only last week, after one of their vessels had transported phosphates from the occupied country to Colombia. "We have of course raised this issue with the shipping company that has chartered the vessel, so that they can do their utmost to prevent this from happening again in the future", chairman of R-Bulk, said to Norwegian state broadcaster 'NRK'.

Earlier, Yara, the world's leading fertilizer producer, made a public statement promising it would stop importing phosphates from Western Sahara. Mineral phosphates are one of the leading sources for fertilizer products globally.

Pro-Sahrawi activists now feel their campaigns to stop the controversial shipping out of phosphates is gaining momentum, with two Norwegian and one Chinese company having promised to halt operations. The Japanese Western Sahara Association earlier this week sent a letter to the Japanese shipping company Sanko Lines, urging it to respect "international legality, human rights and basic standards of corporate social responsibility" by announcing a halt to Western Sahara shipments. A Sanko Line vessel in April transported phosphates from Western Sahara to Colombia.

Also a South Korean shipping company that transported phosphates from Western Sahara to the US market in April this year is now being singled out by activists for lobbying.

The phosphate trade from occupied Western Sahara is controversial and most probably in violation of international law, according to UN assessments. Since the 1970s, phosphates have been the biggest revenue sources for Moroccan occupant authorities in the territory. Activists claim these revenues directly finance the occupation and the resettlements of Moroccans into the territory.

Rising from around 50 dollars a tonne in April 2007, to around 400 dollars today, the international phosphate prize has doubled eight-fold in just over one year. The annual income from the Moroccan phosphate industry in occupied Western Sahara therefore amounts to around US$ 1.2 billion.




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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