NTB: Japanese shipping company behind transport from Western Sahara

In violation of international recommendations, 15.000 tonnes of phosphates have been transported from Western Sahara to Colombia.

Published 31 May 2008

Oslo/Bergen, Norway
Norwegian News Agency (NTB)
30 May 2008

The transportation is done on a vessel from Bergen, Norway, but ship owner Christian Gerhard Sundt rejects to NTB that he has any responsibility.

Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since Spain withdrew from its former colony in 1975. The autumn 2007, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised against Norwegian companies trading in, investing in, exploiting or in any other way carrying out business in Western Sahara, with a reference to the fact that it could be in violation of international law. 

Both the UN General Assembly and Security Council has demanded that Morocco withdraws from the territory.

"The vessel is chartered on long term contract to a big Japanese shipping company, and according to international rules we can have no control about where the vessel embarks or discharges", said Sundt. 

“Unethical and controversial”
The story emerged after the trade union Industry Energy, with president Mr. Leif Sande, together with a few other organisations sent a letter to the ship owner Christian Gerhard Sundt, and pointed to the shipment from Western Sahara to Colombia with the vessel Radiance. 

Sundt controls the shipping company Seven Seas Carriers AS. Radiance on 42.000 deadweight tonnes belongs to R-Bulk, a subsidiary of Seven Seas. 

The letter signatories refer to information from Colombian harbour authorities. The value of the cargo is estimated to 30 million kroners, and the letter writers underline that such trade with goods from Western Sahara is unethical, politically controversial and possibly in violation of international law. 

Avoid in the future
"We have of course brought up this issue with the long term charterer, and asked that such shipments are avoided in the future. And I am sure that the charterer also will listen to international advise", said ship owner Sundt. 

The long term contract was entered into in 2002, and lasts at least until 2016. From what Sundt knows, it is the first time that Radiance is used for this purpose, since the vessel is originally constructed for transportation of steel and processed timber.

The letter writers, who in addition to Industry Energy consist of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara and Western Sahara Resource Watch, draws Sundt's attention to the fact that companies involved in what they call the plundering of Western Sahara's resources, could be liable to legal demands from a future government in Western Sahara. 

Translated to English by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.

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