Norwegian gas into the war zone?

War has broken out in Western Sahara. A Norwegian gas transport may be on its way into the territory.

Published 20 November 2020

Graphic above shows the location of Epic Manhattans as of 18 November at 1100AM. 

For a couple of hours on the morning of November 18th, the LPG tanker Epic Manhattan had notified that it would transport gas from Kårstø to the city of El Aaiún in Western Sahara. The information that the ship was to transport gas to Western Sahara was first out for a couple of hours, but at 10:30 the same day, the port of call was changed to Agadir in Morocco.

The data on El Aaiún harbor was available on the pages of Marinetraffic, among others. At least one supplier of shipping data even reported throughout the afternoon, 18 November, that the vessel was going to El Aaiún in Western Sahara.

It is not known why El Aaiún was first listed as a port of call. The vessel is now listed as the port of call Agadir. Friday morning, the ship is on its way in through the English Channel.

War broke out in Western Sahara this weekend, after 29 years of ceasefire. Morocco continues to occupy most of the territory in violation of international law.

“We take it for granted that the companies that have so far realized the controversy by transporting North Sea gas to Western Sahara will not break their promises by doing the same thing again”, says Mr. Erik Hagen director of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara to daily newspaper Finansavisen today.

“We take it for granted that companies will also not transport Norwegian gas to Western Sahara with Agadir as an intermediate stop. It would just as much be a violation of basic ethics” Mr. Hagen continues.

It has previously happened that vessels first transported gas to El Aaiún with a stopover in Agadir. This happened when the vessel Epic Bermuda (IMO 9238131) arrived in Western Sahara on February 12 after transporting gas from Immingham in the UK with the first stopover in Agadir. On February 27, another gas ship, the Epic Bird (IMO 9698367), arrived at El Aaiún, carrying gas from Lavera in France via Agadir in Morocco.

On November 17, the Western Sahara liberation movement Polisario issued a warning to international business that the ceasefire had ended and that the territory was a war zone.

Twice earlier this year, gas has been exported out of Kårstø harbor with destination occupied Western Sahara

On Sunday, June 7, at 7 pm, the gas tanker Eco Invictus called at the occupied territories of Western Sahara. According to the plan, the gas vessel Eco Invictus was to call at Western Sahara on 7 June in the evening. However, pressure on the exporter in Norway led to the vessel changing course, and instead landed the cargo in Mohamedia in Morocco on 6 June.

In April, The Norwegian public oil and gas company Equinor exported gas to the occupied territories. Equinor apologized for the shipment and said they would never do it again. The Support Committee believes that it is certain that Equinor is not behind the current transport.

On June 4th, the Support Committee wrote to Gassco, which operates the Kårstø plant, asking whether the matter had been raised with the export company in question. The company, which is 100% state-owned, disclaimed any responsibility

Epic Manhattan called at Kårstø Jetty No.1 at 1200 on the day of November 17th. After 20 hours in port, it left port at 07:30 on the morning of 18 November. Epic Manhattan has the Singapore flag. Its group owner is Mitsui-Soko Co Ltd from Japan and operator is Epic Ship Management Pte Ltd from Singapore.

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