Bermuda shipping company drops Western Sahara

Western Sahara Resource Watch

Golden Ocean regrets shipment of phosphates from Western Sahara and changes future contracts to avoid new transports from the occupied territory.Above: Screenshot from Marinetraffic.com

On 30 August 2017, Golden Ocean’s vessel Golden Keen left the El Aaiún harbour in the occupied Western Sahara with a cargo of approximately 79.000 tonnes of phosphate rock, destined for the port of Baton Rouge, where it arrived on 14 September. The rock was exported by the Moroccan state-owned company OCP which operates a mine in the part of Western Sahara that Morocco holds under illegal occupation.

The owner of the vessel, Golden Ocean Management AS, is based in Bermuda, and registered on NASDAQ and in Oslo.

“We now have a policy that we exclude Western Sahara for new charter contracts», CEO of Global Ocean, Birgitte Ringstad Vartdal told one of the largest online newspapers in Norway, Dagbladet, today. 

“We bought the vessel Golden Keen with charter party attached early 2017 and regretfully West-Sahara was not excluded in the charter party we assumed. The vessel was time chartered out to a third party for the remainder of 2017, and therefore we were not in a position to stop the trade out of West Sahara on this particular vessel”, CEO of Global Ocean Management AS, Birgitte Ringstad Vartdal comments in a letter to Western Sahara Resource Watch on 26 February 2018.

A number of international ship owners have introduced similar clause on Western Sahara in their agreements with the companies that charter their vessels.

The importer in Baton Rouge was PotashCorp, now merged into Nutrien. The company Nutrien is expected to account for around half all phosphate imports from Western Sahara in 2018, in line with previous years.

The main owner of Golden Ocean is Mr. John Fredriksen, who according to Forbes is the world’s 131st wealthiest man. Global Ocean is a company that has its origins in Frontline, the world’s largest fleet of oil tankers.

On 23 February, the High Court of South Africa judged that a cargo of phosphates on board a vessel from Western Sahara to New Zealand carried goods that did neither belong to the Moroccan exporter nor to the importer in New Zealand. That vessel NM Cherry Blossom, has now been detained in Port Elizabeth for over 300 days. The Court underlined that Morocco’s is illegally occupying Western Sahara and has no right to export phosphate rock from the territory.

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