Only hours after Green Glacier this afternoon arrived Cape Town with a probable cargo of frozen fish from Western Sahara - it started on the 1 week trip back to West Africa without having offloaded any of its controversial cargo.
Above: Screenshot from Marinetraffic. Follow its movements on Marinetraffic.com
For the first known time since the High Court of South Africa detained the cargo of the vessel NM Cherry Blossom in 2017, a cargo from Western Sahara today could have entered South African waters.
In the afternoon of 25 January 2019, after a week-long transport from West Africa, the vessel Green Glacier arrived the outskirts of Cape Town harbour. For some hours, the vessel circulated, at the same spot, waiting to enter the harbour.
Then, at 1800 local time, without even having moored at the port, the vessel suddenly changed course, took north, picked up speed, and adjusted its destination to Abidjan - the very same neighbourhood it had departed from a week ago.
The return back to West Africa will take one week, and the vessel has reported an estimated arrival time in Abidjan on 2 February.
Green Glacier thus made a pointless trip of two weeks up and down the coast of Africa without offloading the cargo in South Africa as it had planned to.
As of 25 January in the afternoon, it is still not known to WSRW what triggered the vessel's escape from South African waters - nor the form or content of any possible communication between the vessel and the local harbour authorities. WSRW two days ago requested the harbour to inspect the vessel upon arrival.
"Morocco has no right to issue fishing licenses to foreign vessels and governments in occupied Western Sahara. Green Reefers should immediately halt its disgraceful transport practices that support the Moroccan fishing operations. Western Sahara's fish belongs to the people of Western Sahara", Sara Eyckmans coordinator of WSRW stated.
A decision from the Court of Justice of the EU in 2018 ruled that EU had no right to sign an agreement for those waters, without first obtaining the consent from the people of Western Sahara.
Despite of that, the occupying power Morocco continues to export fish from the territory. The exports takes place in four different manners: as fish meal, canned, as fish oil or as frozen fish. Western Sahara Resource Watch has several times written about the scope of the exports, and wrote about the shipment on 23 January 2018 covered the interesting voyage of Green Glacier to South Africa.
One of the larger players in the shipping of frozen fish from Western Sahara is the Norwegian company Green Reefers. Despite of the decision of the EU court, and despite that Norwegian government asks Norwegian companies not to engage in the territory, the shipping company Green Reefers has routinely carried out such transports.
Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) contacted the shipping company's CEO Eivind Eidesvik several times on email firstname.lastname@example.org and mobile number +4791541800 over the last days, without receiving clarifications or comments on why they had picked up goods in the occupied territory.
WSRW understands that Frente Polisario, the liberation movement of Western Sahara, contacted the Norwegian company few days ago, protesting the transport.
The legal-financial risk for companies operating in Western Sahara has increased dramatically following the EU Court of Justice decisions from 2016 onwards. The EU Court's arguments constituted important elements in the 2018 South Africa ruling on NM Cherry Blossom phsosphate cargo.
The Norwegian vessel that turned 180 degrees upon arriving South African waters with fish from occupied Western Sahara, has spent the last two days discharging its cargo in the port of Abidjan. An international request for detaining the vessel was sent out to African states.
A Norwegian vessel that is likely transporting frozen fish from occupied Western Sahara could be on thin ice. In three days from now, 'Green Glacier' will enter South African waters - the jurisdiction that detained a stolen cargo from Western Sahara in 2017.
Western Sahara Resource Watch for the first time presents an overview of the transports of frozen fish from occupied Western Sahara. Near all of it ends up in West African harbours.
The Norwegian Council for Africa wrote in February about the shipping company Atlantic RTI which transported fish from occupied Western Sahara. The company now says they will prevent their vessels from being used for such purposes in the future.