In 2015 and 2017, the Norwegian shipping company Spar Shipping transported two large cargos of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara to India. The company announced today that further trade from the territory is out of the question.
In August 2015, it was revealed that Spar Shipping, a company based in Bergen, Norway, had allowed one of its vessels, Spar Capella, to carry phosphates rock from El Aaiun in Western Sahara to Paradip in India. The affair attracted media attention in Norway and critique from civil society.
"It is highly deplorable that a ship from the city of Bergen is used in this trade. The occupying power is profiting on it", stated the Rafto Foundation of Human Rights to the newspaper Bergens Tidende at the time.
Nonetheless, in February 2017, it happened again. The sister vessel was called Spar Lyra, and took the same route around South Africa to India, just weeks before the bulk vessel NM Cherry Blossom was detained in a South African port for carrying such stolen goods.
But now, Spar Shipping's involvement has now come to an end, following the example of a number of other shipping companies.
The managing director of Spar Shipping, Jarle Ellefsen, 11 January 2019 clarified to Bergens Tidende, one of Norway's largest newspapers, that there will be no further transports from the territory.
"Our business model is to rent out vessels to third parties for global trade. In fact, new charter party contracts entered into after the spring of 2017, we have excluded Western Sahara as a territory for trade. There is thus no grounds for critique towards Spar Shipping AS nor the sister company Spar Kjøp AS", wrote.
The statement came after a Saharawi refugee questioned the business ethics of the Spar group, including both their shipping company Spar Shipping and of their supermarket chain Spar Kjøp, in the same newspaper on 10 January.
The two Spar transports are mentioned in Western Sahara Resource Watch's annual report on phosphate trade "P for Plunder" of 2015 and 2017.
The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara was in contact with the company from 2015 onward. See correspondence here. The association contacted also the company on 19 June 2018 and 24 August 2018, without response.
The export of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara has never been lower than in 2019. This is revealed in the new WSRW report P for Plunder, published today.
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