On Tuesday, a cargo vessel arrived at the port of Bremen with a new probable cargo of conflict meal.
Update: The Senate for economy, labour and harbours of the City of Bremen has confirmed that the cargo of NAJA contained fishmeal which has been imported from "Laayoune" (the Moroccan denomination for El Aaiun).
So it becomes more and more clear that Bremen is the European platform for the trade of controversial fishmeal from the occupied Western Sahara.
The cargo ship Naja (IMO: 9145126, flag: Antigua & Barbuda) has arrived in the port of Bremen at noon of 30 April 2019, with a possible cargo of fishmeal from occupied Western Sahara in its hold.
Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) has reason to believe that the importer is Köster Marine Protein GmbH, currently the only provider of fishmeal from third countries outside of the EU and northern Europe. The company imports from Morocco, as stated on its website.
It is not the first of such imports to Bremen. WSRW is aware of 5 shipments since January 2017. The previous import took place in July 2018, as 3000 tonnes arrived on board the cargo vessel Bente.
The new cargo vessel that arrived Bremen had departed the port of El Aaiun in occupied Western Sahara on 19 April. The changes in the drought - how deep a vessel lies in the water - indicates that she had taken on a cargo in El Aaiun harbour. When Naja arrived El Aaiun on 14 April, the drought was 3.6 meters. Upon departure five days later, the drought was at 5.3 meters. The Naja then made a short stop in Las Palmas, where she could have discharged some of the consignment, but not all, as drought had reduced to 4.9m. The vessel subsequently set sail for the port of Bremen, where she arrived on 30 April 2019 at 11:44am.
Köster Marine Protein (KMP) uses the Hansakai harbour facility in Bremen, which belongs to stock company J. Müller AG. Built in 2016, this facility - "the biggest and the most modern fishmeal terminal in Europe" - meets all EU requirements regarding transport and sanitary control. It is at this precise terminal where the Naja is currently at anchor.
Before transporting the fishmeal further, KMP stores it for 72 hours in silos on the port premises that can hold up to 50.000 tonnes. The silo seems to be part owned by KMP together with J. Müller Weser. The imported fishmeal can be loaded onto ships, trains or trucks after customs clearance.
WSRW sent a letter to KMP yesterday, inquiring about the cargo on board of the Naja and the information contained in the certificates of origin accompanying the consignment. Another letter was sent to J. Müller Weser. WSRW has previously, in July 2018, sent a letter to KMP regarding the Bente affair. In addition, an email was sent in September 2018 to ask for clarifications on imports during 2017 and 2018. No reply was received. KMP in 2018 also failed to answer a request from German media.
Since July 2018, WSRW, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and German solidarity group Freiheit für die Westsahara e.V. (FfdWS) have sought clarifications from the authorities. The only information that has emerged comes from the statistical office of Bremen and is based on maritime transport statistics: there have been deliveries to Bremen from Western Sahara since 2015. The customs authorities must have identified these imports as having originated in Morocco, given that the German federal statistics do not show any imports of fishmeal from Western Sahara from 2013 to 2018. FfdWS and ECCHR have both warned the customs authorities of the suspected erroneous origin-reporting, but customs authorities claim they do not have to inspect cargoes without customs duty.
Fishmeal is one of the products imported with a third country duty (MFN) of 0% and which is not checked by customs because no duties are payable. Of these products, Customs recorded a total of 13 imports from El Aaiun in Bremen in the years 2017 and 2018. All were imported as goods from Morocco. It could be fishmeal or other products, in any case they are goods of territory of conflict. WSRW sent another letter to the port authorities yesterday.
Fishmeal imported into the EU is produced in processing plants that are certified by the EU: 44% of the EU-certified plants that are listed as located in Morocco, are in fact located in occupied Western Sahara. Find the most recent list of Morocco's processing plants certified by the EU's Directorate General for Food Safety here.
One of those EU-certified fishmeal producers in occupied Western Sahara is Laayoune Protein, the likely source of the fishmeal purchased by KMP. Laayoune Protein is boasting a cooperation with a company called "Koster Marine AB", linking with a URL to a Swedish company with that name. The latter is however a small Swedish company running a ferry-service between islands on the Swedish west coast. WSRW sees this as an unlikely partner of Laayoune Protein, and that the real partner is the fishmeal company in Bremen, Germany. Laayoune Protein also names Olvea as a partner, the fish oil importing company in Normandy, known particularly from the Key Bay affair in 2017.
The lion's share of Morocco's fish catches are landed in occupied Western Sahara, even according to Moroccan data. The country's Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) in 2013 reported a share of 79% of catches being done in "the southern provinces". A substantial part of fisheries products imported from Morocco in reality originate from Western Sahara.
As stipulated by the International Court of Justice and by the EU Court of Justice in several rulings (more info in this section), Morocco has no sovereignty over Western Sahara. It can only exploit the resources of the part of the territory it holds under military occupation with the express consent of the people of Western Sahara. The Saharawis, through their UN-recognised political representation the Polisario Front, have never consented to the taking of their country's fish stocks or derived products.
The fishmeal exports are as such part of Morocco's long-standing practice of exploiting fish stocks over which it has no legal claim. A practice that is condoned by the EU.
In spite of its own Court's conclusions that Morocco has no mandate whatsoever to administer Western Sahara, the EU has recently concluded a Fisheries Agreement with Morocco that will explicitly apply to Western Sahara. EU vessels that fish in occupied waters are obliged to land a certain percentage of their catches for local processing plants, for the production of e.g. fishmeal. For years, the EU has subsidized the development of Morocco's fishing industry in the territory as part of the sectoral support granted under the Fisheries Agreement. The newly amended Trade deal with Morocco, which regulates trade in fisheries and agricultural products, will also apply to Western Sahara - though the people of Western Sahara have repeatedly stated their opposition to this arrangement.
The following companies seem to be behind the vessel Naja:
Group owner: R.E.S. Group, Brunsbüttel, Germany (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.reederei-strahlmann.de)
Ship manager: Erwin Strahlmann GmbH & Co KG
Operator: RES Chartering GmbH in Hamburg, Germany (email@example.com, www.r-e-s.eu)
Registered Owner: Lappan Shipping & Trading GmbH
The Bremen port authorities have now confirmed WSRW’s hypothesis that a shipment of fishmeal from Western Sahara arrived in Bremen (Germany) two weeks ago – though they erroneously locate the town of origin, El Aaiun, in “Morocco”.
The imports of fishmeal into Germany from occupied Western Sahara is a lot larger than what has been known to the public so far, according to fresh data from the Bremen government.
A consignment of 3000 tonnes of fishmeal that was loaded in occupied Western Sahara is at present being unloaded in the port of Bremen, Germany. "How does this fit with the ECJ judgment on trade with Western Sahara?", WSRW asks.
German Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office stresses importance of complying with Judgment of EU Court of Justice in relation to Western Sahara trade.