A sealed bid auction to buy the 55,000 tonnes of Western Sahara phosphate rock onboard the ship seized by the South African authorities is about to conclude.
In February 2018, the High Court in Port Elizabeth (South Africa) ruled that the cargo onboard the NM Cherry Blossom belonged to the exiled government of Western Sahara, and that Morocco’s state-owned phosphate firm OCP had no right to sell the commodity. The NM Cherry Blossom was detained at Port Elizabeth on 1 May 2017, during a stop-over on its route to New Zealand. A New Zealand farmers’ cooperative Ballance Agri-Nutrients had purchased the 55,000 tonnes cargo of phosphate rock, excavated in occupied Western Sahara, from OCP.
While vesting the ownership of the phosphate cargo in the Saharawi Government, the High Court also granted a sale order providing for the auction to run 30 calendar days from 19 March 2018. It closes on 19 April.
The starting bid was set at $1 million. From what Western Sahara Resource Watch understands, interested parties have shown interest in the auction. Material regarding the auction can be found on this website. The site shows images of the cargo, seen from inside of the hold of the vessel.
The Court also ordered an independent analysis of the cargo, which includes 45,000 tonnes of high-grade phosphate rock. In addition to publishing the already known judgment, the auction website released several technical reports regarding the cargo, including lab analysis (see below).
“We hope there will be significant interest now that the title is clear and is backed by the high court ruling,” said Kamal Fadel, executive member of the Saharawi Republic (SADR) Petroleum and Mining Authority. Fadel told media that the money raised would be used to pursue similar cases. “We plan to target everyone that deals illegally with our resources”, Fadel added.
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