A ship carrying 55.000 Tons of Saharawi blood phosphate finally docks at Tauranga in New Zealand

Tauranga (New Zealand) 25 July 2019 (SPS)– “The Venture Pearl”, a ship carrying 55,000 tons of stolen phosphate from Western Sahara, arrived undeclared to Tauranga on Wednesday, having purposely “disguised” its destination during its eight weeks at sea, reports New Zealand’s largest most popular news website, “Stuff”.

In his reaction to the news, Polisario Front’s Representative to Australia and New Zealand, Mr. Kamal Fadel, indicated to “Stuff” that his organization has been tracking this ship since it set sail from occupied Western Sahara’s port, El-Aiun, at the start of June.

Fadel said the Polisario Front had tracked many ships involved in carrying stolen phosphate from the occupied El Aaiun, but the Venture Pearl was apparently the first that has tried to conceal its final destination during its entire journey.

The ship had to take a very long and complicated route to make it difficult for activists to track it. Avoiding most African countries, and also avoiding the Panama Canal, where a ship was detained in 2017 before being allowed to continue, the ship headed towards South America, stopping at Rio de Janiero in Brazil, and then sailed around Cape Horn, first listing China as its final destination, before changing it to Tauranga (New Zealand) about a week out from its arrival. It was only then that the cargo of the ship was listed as “fertiliser”.

Kamal Fadel estimates that all this secrecy is adopted by the owners of the ship, because “maybe they are concerned about legal actions or protests in New Zealand, so they want to disguise [its destination and cargo] to prevent that from happening”.

Flying under a Liberian flag, the Venture Pearl came through the Tauranga Harbour in New Zealand on Wednesday, after having disguised its final destination for the whole trip, until one week from the port.

Carrying 55.000 Tons of stolen phosphate from occupied Western Sahara, the ship was chartered by Mt Maunganui-based Ballance Agri-Nutrients, a New Zealand farmer-owned co-op, which imports about four such shipments a year.

The New Zeland companies, Ballance and Ravensdown, are two of only three private companies worldwide which still buy this stolen phosphate, also labeled “Blood Phosphate” by Saharawis and international activists, who oppose such illegal and unethical exploitation and trade.

Kamal Fadel indicated to “Stuff” that legal action would be launched in New Zealand against Balance and Ravensdown because “these companies are the last remaining [buyers] and they are just ignoring our call for action and offer for dialogue. We have no more options than to take this way – everything else has failed,” including Polisario Front’s attempts to convince the companies stop this criminal trade.

Denying Ballance responsibility about the hiding of the port of final destination, the spokesman of the company, David Glendining, declared to “Stuff” that he doubted there was any deliberate attempt to disguise the ship’s journey.

Ballance has not in any way asked for the destination of this or other phosphate shipments to be concealed,” he said, adding that declaring a destination was a requirement of berthing in New Zealand and was published by the port.

He nevertheless claimed that “buying phosphate mined in Western Sahara by the company Phosboucraa was in full compliance with international, national and local laws and regulations, including UN provisions for trade with non-self-governing territories,” which is a statement that is highly misleading.

The UN, the AU and the EU Court of Justice have all clearly ruled that any exploitation or trade with the natural resources of the occupied territories of Western Sahara is illegal, since Western Sahara is a distinct territory over which has no sovereignty. Therefore, any company or entity that trades with goods originating from it following agreements with Morocco, the occupying force, is simply a trade in stolen goods.

Besides, the three above mentioned institutions also considered that the exploitation of the resources of Western Sahara needs the consent of the people of the territory. Therefore, without the formal acceptance by the legitimate representative of the Saharawis, Polisario Front, such trade can only be considered as an act of theft and piracy.

The company official also claimed that “more than 75 per cent of employees at Phosboucraa were Saharawi,” which is another misleading information, since first of all it is not true, but also is irrelevant, because the Moroccan company is in itself illegally operating in the occupied territory since Morocco’s military invasion of Western Sahara.

The Ballance CEO, Mark Wynne, the “Stuff” adds, had regularly visited Phosboucraa “to see first-hand the local investment in community and economic development programmes, environmental and social initiatives,” but, he probably didn’t try to check the status of Morocco in the territory, nor did he care about the human rights abuses his Moroccan partners are committing against the people of Western Sahara, as widely reported by dozens of reports issued by international human rights organizations denouncing these violations.

090/500/60 (SPS)