In the morning of 9 December 2019, the bulk carrier Federal Crimson- carrying 50,000 tonnes of phosphate from occupied Western Sahara - was met by a peace flotilla of 15 kayaks and a ferry with more than 100 school children. Another 80 activists were singing protest songs from land.
Protesters called on importing company Ravensdown to stop buying Saharawi phosphate immediately.
The evening before, as the vessel arrived at the port, a protest letter was handed over by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) Lyttelton Port Branch to the captain of the vessel. About a month ago, the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) of New Zealand had passed a resolution condemning Morocco's illegal occupation of Western Sahara and calling upon the New Zealand government to halt the imports of phosphate from the territory. RMTU is an affiliate of the Council.
Since arriving in New Zealand, the Federal Crimson has had nothing but an unwelcome experience. A week ago, as protesters demonstrated at the port of Napier, where the vessel discharged part of its cargo for the Ravensdown's facilities in the area, Like in Lyttelton, RMTU's Napier Branch handed over a protest letter to the vessel's captain, after having threatened not to unload the cargo if they were barred from this form of peaceful protest.
Civil society protests have been going in different ports of New Zealand for weeks now, calling on both Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients to end the import of "blood phosphate". The two companies, which are farmers' cooperatives, import phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara - a Non-Self-Governing Territory in Northwest Africa that was brutally invaded and annexed by Morocco in 1975. To date, Morocco continues to militarily occupy three-quarters of the territory, including its phosphate reserves which are exploited to the benefit of Morocco's national treasury. The Saharawi people - living in refugee camps in Algeria or under the yoke of a brutal oppression - have not consented to the phosphate trade, as would be in line with their internationally recognised right to self-determination.
The controversial trade is documented in the annual Western Sahara Resource Watch report P for Plunder. New Zealand is one of the very few countries that are still importing the conflict mineral, after Spain, Lithuania, Australia, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, USA and Norway have halted the trade in recent years.
The vessel Federal Crimson is operated by Fednav Ltd, Canada, (president LG Pathy firstname.lastname@example.org, Vice-president operations, Mr. Paul A Gourdeau, email@example.com, Vice-president chartering, Mr. James W Easey, firstname.lastname@example.org). Group owner is Marubeni Corp, Japan, while registered owner is MMSL Pte Ltd, Singapore. P&I by UK P&I Club.
High resolution film clips will be posted in this article on 11 Dec. Click on each picture below for high resolution version in pop-up window.
Photo credit: Josie Blossfeld
Organiser Josie Butler and concerned members of the public marched to the Port this morning in protest of the Federal Crimson (Photo credit: Nathen Fitchen)
Kayakers and paddle boards make their way towards the Federal Crimson (Photo credit: Josie Blossfield)
Christchurch resident Jacob Rados sits patiently on the yacht Cimarrón, getting ready for departure (Photo credit: (Josie Blossfield)
Members of Rail and Maritime Transport Union in front of the ship, as above (Photo credit: RMTU)
Members of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU), Lyttelton Port Branch, hand over their protest letter to the captain of the Federal Crimson. Delegates from left to right are Mike Shrimpton - Foreman and RMTU Lyttelton Branch President, Laurie Collins - Cargo Handler, Brian Watkins - Security Officer, Ray Spain - Cargo Handler (Photo credit: RMTU)
Local business near the port join in on the protest against the Federal Crimson's contentious cargo.
Photo credit: Josie Blossfeld
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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.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.