On Friday 30th, it was revealed that the Norwegian shipping company R-Bulk has been involved in transporting 15.000 tonnes of phosphates from occupied Western Sahara to Colombia. The shipment was done on the vessel 'Radiance' in middle of April.
It is also possible that a company partially owned by the Chavez government in Venezuela received an almost equally large part of the ‘Radiance’ shipment few days before.
The affair was raised in an open letter to the company, signed by the one of Norway's biggest trade unions, Industry Energy, as well as the international research organisation Western Sahara Resource Watch, and Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara on Friday.
During the Friday R-Bulk apologized to Norwegian national media that their vessel had done such a transport, underlining that they are only owning the vessel, and that the day-to-day management of the vessel is done by a Japanese shipping company.
R-Bulk said, however, that they were sorry, and that they were doing all in their power to prevent it from happening again.
Unethical The phosphate industry in occupied Western Sahara - and thus also imports and shipping of the phosphate rock - is in violation of international law. It furthermore offers a sign of legitimisation of the brutal Moroccan occupation, and disregards the wishes and interests of the Sahrawi people.
"The R-Bulk phosphate shipment is in the interest of Morocco, an illegal occupier, and clearly lends legitimacy to the illegal Moroccan occupation of the territory. This kind of support makes Morocco less inclined to contribute in finding a solution to the occupation, and makes delaying tactics and attempting to profit from the existing situation more attractive", the letter said.
The organisations asked R-Bulk to issue a statement that specifies that their vessels are not longer allowed to ship phosphates from occupied Western Sahara.
To the Norwegian national broadcaster NRK Friday evening, the company said they had already raised the issue with the Japanese charterer Sanko Line, the very same morning.
"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, Christian Gerhardt Sundt, said to NRK.
According to the Norwegian News Agency (NTB), the Japanese company has rented Radiance from 2002 to 2016.
"I am sure that the charterer will listen to international advise", the Norwegian ship owner told NTB.
Good corporate behaviour The president of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, Ronny Hansen, said to NRK that R-Bulk’s statement is commendable.
"The shipping company has shown a good corporate social responsibility. They have apologised, and now they try to prevent it from happening again. Many companies can learn from them", Hansen said.
As an example, he mentioned Norwegian companies such as the fishing company Sjøvik - a company that fishes in the occupied waters.
Hansen underlined that the Norwegian government’s position to advise companies against getting engaged in Western Sahara proves good intentions, but that many companies chose to ignore the Norwegian government's policy.
"Therefore we feel it is about time to start considering an explicit embargo against trade in goods from, and investments in, Western Sahara occupied by Morocco", he said.
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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