Canada bound ship with conflict minerals released from detention
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The Ultra Innovation left the port of Panama City on 21 May, and is currently heading towards Vancouver. The dispute over the ownership of the cargo could still be pending court case.
Published: 24.05 - 2017 20:00Printer version    
The graphic above is a screenshot of the bulk vessel's movements as of 20 May 2017, 09:30 CET from Marinetraffic.

In the early morning hours of 21 May, the vessel Ultra Innovation was released from detention in Panama, and is at present heading in a 14 knot speed towards Canada.

The vessel contains conflict minerals - phosphate rock - exploited by the Moroccan government in the territory that it holds under foreign occupation, Western Sahara. The rock is bound for Agrium Inc, a Canadian company that imports via Vancouver harbour. Agrium is the biggest funder of the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, which the United Nations is working to decolonise.

The vessel was detained on 17 May due to a dispute over the ownership of the cargo. The Moroccan government claims that it has the right to exploit the phosphate rock mine in the territory that it occupies in violation of international law.

The United Nations secretariat and the Court of Justice of the EU thinks otherwise. Polisario, the legal representative of the people of Western Sahara, tried the case at a court in Panama just three weeks after a it initiated similar case in South Africa concerning a vessel transiting to New Zealand.

Agrium confirmed to Reuters that the shipping company had posted a bond for the release of the ship. Western Sahara Resource Watch expects the matter will be dealt with in the Panamanian court over the coming weeks or months. Ultra Innovation is now expected to arrive in Vancouver on 1 June.

"We are currently working with our charter company (Ultrabulk) to work through the situation. At this time we don’t anticipate any production interruptions at our facility in Alberta (Redwater)," a company spokesperson told Reuters on 18 May.

"We in Afrika Kontakt have tried to explain to Ultrabulk and to the Danish Shipowners' Association that they act in violation of international law. Their replies have not taken our letters seriously, and now one can see the result", the Danish organisation Afrika Kontakt told Danish media.

Ultrabulk has an agreement to transport phosphate rock from Morocco to the Canadian importer. Neither Ultrabulk or Agrium has asked the people of Western Sahara whether they consent to the companies buying and transporting the rock plundered by the country that occupies the territory.

Over the course of the last years, Agrium has emerged as the biggest importer of phosphate rock from the occupied territory. A report by Western Sahara Resource Watch launched in April this year, estimates their imports from Western Sahara for 2016 to be worth around 66,6 million USD, which is twice the amount of the multilateral humanitarian aid given to the refugees from Western Sahara, who own the phosphates. Numerous international financial institutions and funds have blacklisted Agrium over their contribution to Morocco's violation of international law.

    

News archive:
21.06 - 2017Polisario warns shipping industry of more vessel detentions
20.06 - 2017Isle of Man shipping company exits Western Sahara until settlement
16.06 - 2017New report reveals the companies transporting conflict phosphate rock
15.06 - 2017Saharawis won first round in conflict mineral cargo court case
02.06 - 2017Moroccan government confirmed Glencore exit from Foum Ognit
29.05 - 2017Can the EU answer these questions on Western Sahara trade talks?
20.05 - 2017Canada bound ship with conflict minerals released from detention
18.05 - 2017Danish vessel with plunder cargo detained in Panama




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Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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