Israel takes in first shipment of conflict minerals from occupied Western Sahara

Parallel to the Moroccan government's participation in a summit in Israel, a first ever export of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara to Israel is about to be completed. 

28 March 2022

Update, 29.03.2022, the vessel docked at Ashdod port in the morning of 29 March. 

The first ever recorded transport of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara to Israel is about to be completed. 

Around four kilometers outside of the port of Ashdod, Israel, the tiny bulk carrier Keremcan Oba is filled to the rim with phosphate rock from Western Sahara. It is currently stuck in an endless queue of vessels waiting to enter the port to offload. 

The incident happens 15 months after Morocco and Israel established full diplomatic relations. The Moroccan minister of foreign affairs Nasser Bourita is at present in Israel, attending a high level summit on 27 and 28 March. 

The cargo departed the occupied territory on 17 February. It arrived at Ashdod already around 1 March, and it has been waiting to offload ever since. On 24 March at 16:00 in the afternoon, the vessel made a quick trip into the docks, but without offloading, only to be sent back out to anchor. The vessel is normally having a 6,8 meters maximum draught, but is now going 6,9 meters deep. 

The Panama-flagged ship is one of the smallest vessels ever recorded to be carrying out a phosphate shipment from occupied Western Sahara, containing perhaps around 5000 tonnes of rock - only 10% of what constitutes an average shipment from the territory. 

It is not known to Western Sahara Resource Watch which company in Ashdod is behind the imports. 

In December 2020, Morocco announced that it had re-established full diplomatic relations with Israel. 

In October 2021, the news emerged that the Israeli petroleum company Ratio Petroleum had entered into a hydrocarbon exploration agreement for the waters offshore Western Sahara. Such exploration is in violation of international law, as it takes place without taking into account the wishes and intersts of the people of the territory. Ratio is the only company with an agreement for hydrocarbon exploration in Western Sahara today. The company consistently refers to the territory as “Morocco”.


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