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News Archive 2007

Parliamentarians protest Gearbulk shipment

PRESS RELEASE: 06/29/2007. This morning, parliamentarians from the UK, Norway, New Zealand and Japan sent a letter to the London-based shipping company Gearbulk. The company profits from the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.
Published: 02.07 - 2007 12:21Printer version    
Yesterday, the vessel 'Bulk Saturn' left New Zealand waters. The ship has transported phosphates to New Zealand from the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.

“Gearbulk is collaborating with an illegal occupier, thus increasing the risk of further armed conflict, destabilisation and suffering in Western Sahara”, writes the letter, signed by 12 parliamentarians from the 4 countries. See full text version of letter below.

“We urge Gearbulk to make a statement as quickly as possible, making it clear that your company intends to no longer ship phosphates from occupied Western Sahara in the future”, the parliamentarians write.

David Drew (Labour) is disappointed over the shipping company's involvement:

“The involvement of foreign companies in the exploitation of Western Sahara's resources must be highlighted”, says Drew. “This trade is supporting an illegal occupation and robbing the people of Western Sahara of resources that are rightfully theirs. Action should be taken to stop it. I am disappointed that a British company, Gearbulk, is involved”.

Greens in New Zealand has known about the trade for a year:

“We discovered Gearbulk’s shipments last year and raised the issue in the New Zealand parliament. Unfortunately, the New Zealand government is not willing to place sanctions on this trade. But all common sense says it has to stop. It is a profiting of the resources of an occupied people”, says Keith Locke, the Greens foreign affairs spokesman.

‘Bulk Saturn’ is owned by the Bermuda registered shipping company Gearbulk, 60% owned by Norwegian interests, 40% by a Japanese company. Gearbulk has its global head office on the outskirts of London, in Weybridge, Surrey.

For further questions, please contact the UK Western Sahara Campaign via Tim Braunholtz on (+44) (0)775 131 8982 or the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara through Eirik Kirkerud at (+47) 90743766.

Notes to Editors
1. Western Sahara is a country the size of New Zealand in North Africa. Invaded by Morocco in 1975, the indigenous Saharawis fought for independence until a UN-backed settlement in 1991 promised them a referendum on self-determination. This referendum, originally planned for in 1992, has not yet been held. Morocco, with military control over 80% of the territory, including the phosphate mines at Boucraa, now refuses to accept that independence can be an option for the territory.
2. Direct negotiations between Morocco and the Saharawis' Polisario Front to resolve this impasse began last week in Manhasset, USA. A further round of talks is due in August

Mr. Kristian Jebsen,
Gearbulk (UK) Ltd
Agents for Gearbulk
5, The Heights
KT13 0NY
United Kingdom

Open letter to Gearbulk

London, Oslo, Wellington, Tokyo, 29 June 2007

Regarding Gearbulk's phosphate shipment from occupied Western Sahara

Dear Mr. Jebsen, Chairman of Gearbulk,

This week we have been made aware of the fact that one of your vessels, 'Bulk Saturn', has arrived in New Zealand with phosphate from occupied Western Sahara. The vessel left New Zealand waters yesterday.

We would like to point your attention to the fact that Yara, the world's biggest fertiliser company, terminated the imports to Norway in 2005, for ethical reasons.

As you know, Morocco is an illegal occupying power in Western Sahara. This has been established by The International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1975, numerous resolutions of The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly and by the UN Under-Secretary General of Legal Affairs, Mr. Hans Corell ( in his letter to the President of the Security Council on 29 January 2002. The occupation of Western Sahara has resulted in enormous suffering and deprivation of the Sahrawi people, the rightful owners of the land and the natural resources of Western Sahara. Approximately 165,000 Sahrawis are languishing in refugee camps in the inhospitable Algerian desert since 1975. The Sahrawi population remaining in areas under Moroccan occupation is subjected to grave human rights violations, such as torture, forced disappearances and arbitrary detention. Most importantly, however, they have not been allowed to freely exercise their right to self-determination through a free, fair and transparent referendum. This right was established through UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) (1960).

As far as we can establish, your company has not consulted with the Sahrawi people or their internationally recognized representatives, the Polisario Front. It is therefore highly dubious that such a contract can be seen as being in accordance with international law, ref. the Corell opinion of 29 January 2002. Both the Western Sahara government in exile, and human rights activists in the occupied area, have repeatedly protested against the exploitation of the territory's natural resources.

In our view, the political and ethical implications are, however, more important than the legal ones. Please see the Norwegian Ministry of Finance for an elaborate opinion (and press release) on these matters.

Gearbulk is collaborating with Morocco, an illegal occupier. Negotiations are currently underway between the Polisario Front and Morocco in an attempt to resolve the future of Western Sahara. The continuation of phosphate shipments makes Morocco less inclined to negotiate seriously, and makes delaying tactics and attempting to profit from the existing situation (despite the suffering of the Saharawis that this entails) more attractive.

The phosphate trade in Western Sahara therefore increases the risk of further armed conflict, destabilisation and suffering in the region. This increased tension actively undermines the hard work of the United Nations to solve the conflict in Western Sahara. Gearbulk's cooperation with the Moroccan government in the phosphate exploitation clearly lends legitimacy to the illegal Moroccan occupation of the area.

The industry itself is not in accordance with the interests of the Sahrawis. According to a report written by the French organisation France Libertés -Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, the Sahrawis have been systematically marginalised from the phosphate industry in Western Sahara. In 1968, before Morocco took control over the phosphate mines, practically all 1600 workers in the industry were Sahrawis, according to the report. Today, 1800 of 2000 workers are Moroccan settlers.

We, the undersigned, hereby appeal to Gearbulk to demonstrate its attachment to International Legality, Human Rights and basic standards of Corporate Social Responsibility by reconsidering its involvement in shipping phosphate of Western Sahara origin.

We notice that Gearbulk over the last 15 months have made three shipments to New Zealand, and are concerned whether your company has a long term contract for the delivery of phosphates from the occupied area. We urge Gearbulk to come with a statement as quickly as possible, making it clear that your company intends to no longer ship phosphates from occupied Western Sahara in the future.

We will be more than happy to provide you with any additional information that you may require to study this matter more closely.

Any reply could be sent to the chairman of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, Mr. Ronny Hansen, at


Mr. David Drew,
Parliamentarian, Labour Party, UK

Mr. John Grogan
Parliamentarian, Labour Party, UK

Mr. Keith Locke,
Parliamentarian, Green Party, New Zealand

Mr. Russel Norman
Parliamentarian, Green Party, New Zealand

Ms. Eva Kristin Hansen
Parliamentarian, Labour Party, Norway

Ms. Trine Skei Grande
Parliamentarian, Liberal Party, Norway

Mr. Bjørn Jacobsen,
Parliamentarian, Socialist Left Party, Norway

Mr. Hallgeir Langeland,
Parliamentarian, Socialist Left Party, Norway

Mr. Alf Ivar Samuelsen,
Parliamentarian, Centre Party, Norway

Mr. Ola Borten Moe,
Parliamentarian, Centre Party, Norway

Mr. Erling Sande,
Parliamentarian, Centre Party, Norway

Mr. Satsuki Eda
Senator, Democratic Party of Japan

-Mitsui O.S.K. Lines
-Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Skipsrederi A/S (KGJS)
-Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
-UK Foreign Office
-The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
-New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
-Mr. Sidi Mohammed Daddach, Rafto Laureate 2002.


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Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.

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