Spain exports military vessels to Morocco claiming them to be civilian ships
- Shipping company Rodman sells military ships to Rabat without classifying them as defense material, although they may carry heavy weapons.
- The Moroccan Army uses these Spanish armored ships and armored vehicles to perpetuate their occupation in Western Sahara.
- Spain continued to transfer weapons to the Moroccan army after the entry into force of European export legislation prohibiting such sales.
eldiario.es.- The Spanish shipping company Rodman has been selling military ships for years, making them pass as civilian ships and thus avoiding arms export controls. Many of these vessels were sent to the Moroccan Navy between 2007 and 2010 and are used to occupy the fishing grounds of Western Sahara. This newspaper also located in the same area Spanish armored vehicles used to prevent protests from the Saharawi people.
The Rodman 101 model vessels were presumably exported as “seagoing ships” or “lifeboats”, despite having a 12.7 mm or larger machine gun. According to Spanish and European legislation, the existence of such support includes these ships in the list of military equipment and subject to proper export control. Rodman, the maker of these ships, did not answer the questions of this newspaper.
Sales of these vessels to Morocco during this period do not appear in the Secretary of State for Trade’s military export records. In the Tax Agency’s data of those years, on the other hand, there are regular exports to Morocco of “maritime or lifeboat vessels” from the province of Pontevedra, where Rodman Polyships – the fiber division of this Galician shipbuilder – produces these Boats
Satellite images from September 2009 and May 2010 show these ships at the Rodman factory in Moaña (Pontevedra). The same models were later geolocated at the ports of El Aaiún and Dakhla in Western Sahara. The most recent images are from August and May 2019.
The legally binding EU Council Common Position states that weapons should not be exported to countries that use them to “forcefully impose a territorial claim” or for “internal repression”, as is the case in Morocco with Saharawi population. Moroccan occupation in that territory violates the opinion of the International Court of Justice of The Hague, as well as several UN resolutions that consider it a occupied territory.
Why military and non-civilian ships
The official plans of these ships, obtained from Rodman’s own site, show them equipped with a machine gun mounted on the bow of the ship.
An image analysis of these ships in service operated by the Moroccan navy also shows in all of them the same mount, apparently with a gun on top. This is seen in the images of ships with reference codes GC131, GC132, G135 and G138 of the Moroccan Navy.
Unable to accurately identify the weapon in these photographs, this newspaper looked for other models of the Rodman 101 ship operating in other countries to see if the above mentioned holder can carry a 12.7 mm or larger machine gun.
This image of a Philippine Coast Guard Rodman 101 clearly shows how a 12.7 mm M2 Browning submachine gun is mounted on the same frame. Other images sent to the same body Twitter account confirm that the assembly is identical to that of other ships of this type and the one shown in the ship’s plans.
This shows that ships were exported as non-military ships, although Spanish and European law clearly states that military material should be considered and subject to export control of such materials.
A study of previous contracts with other countries also indicates a possible ‘modus operandi’ when exporting these military ships as if they were not. Rodman Polyships is selling this type of boat to various governments around the world. Nicaragua acquired four of them in 2008 and three more ships were handed over to the Oman Coast Guard in 2013. Cameroon, Suriname and the Philippines also acquired these ships in 2000 and 2004.
These transactions, however, do not appear on the Ministry of Commerce’s list of military material exported during these years. The analyzed images of these ships in the mentioned countries also show them with heavy machine guns, some even larger than 12.7 mm, as is the case in Nicaragua, according to specialized media.
Spanish armored vehicles in Sahara
The Moroccan government does not only use ships made in Spain to impose their occupation in Western Sahara. The same investigation has documented the use of Spanish armored vehicles in El Aaiún, the capital of the region, specifically the URO VAMTAC, manufactured by the Urovesa company.
The Spanish and Moroccan government reached an agreement in November 2006 to sell 1,200 armored vehicles, although the occupation of Morocco in that territory has already been denounced by the UN and numerous NGOs denouncing the multiple violations of labor law, Saharawi education and health and human rights under Moroccan occupation.
At the time of the agreement to sell armored vehicles, the European Common Position on Arms Exports (2008) had not entered into force, but at least 286 of these vehicles were delivered in 2009, when it was already in force, according to data from export of the Ministry of Commerce.
Although the presence of these vehicles has already been reported by some NGOs and local media, this investigation has been able to geo-locate these vehicles being used in at least three locations in El Aaiún, Western Sahara.
Following the dismantling of the Saharawi peaceful protest camp in Gdeim Izik in November 2010, the Saharawis began a protest campaign that was severely suppressed. The epicenter of these mobilizations was Avenida Smara in El Aaiún, the capital of the region. In this video, geolocated at these coordinates, protests are observed.
After the protests, police and the armed forces seized the city to suppress the mobilizations. From these dates, we were able to geographically locate various armored images and videos of the URO VAMTAC in El Aaiún, most of them located on the same Smara Avenue where the protests took place.