Swedish vessels entering occupied waters

Swedish fishing vessels are being exported to occupied Western Sahara.  

29 June 2023

Graphic above: The ship tracking website Fleetmon.com showing Westerö Av Hönö's movements as of 29 June 2023. The vessel had not Western Sahara as its final destination, as was originally believed. 

UPDATE: Based on shipping information from Fleetmon, this article - published originally on 29 June 2023 -  stated that the vessel Westerö Av Hönö was heading for Western Sahara. This appears not to be the end destination for the ship. The information about that vessel's real route was updated on 30 June at 07:35.

In January 2023, the Swedish fishing vessel Polar (IMO 9227431) was sold to interests in Morocco. The ship was registered as exported to Morocco in the Commission's registry. Before operating in Sweden, the ship had been fishing in Norway under the name Saevikson. Now, Polar operates from the occupied town of Dakhla, on Moroccan licences. 

The Polar incident is only one in a row of several exports of old Swedish fishing vessels to occupied Western Sahara. 

In 2021, the Swedish vessel Astrid (IMO 9163037) was sold to Moroccan interests. The exporting company in Sweden, Astrid Fiske AB, is the largest fishing company in the country, and also one of the biggest in Denmark via its Danish subsidiary Astrid Fiskeri A/S. The exporting company had filed to the EU Commission that the ship was being exported to Norway, but it was in fact sold to Morocco. WSRW traced the ship as it was on the move from Sweden to the occupied territory in March 2021 (see graphics below). The ship is today fishing off the coast of the occupied territory, under Moroccan flag. 

In earlier years, a handful other fishing vessels have been sold from Swedish companies to Moroccan interests in the occupied territory. Some continued to serve Swedish interests after exportation: the most known case is that of Swedish fishermen ending up in a several year long legal case in the district court in Gothenburg, Sweden, accused of violating a number of fisheries regulations

A similar trend of exports of old ships to Moroccan interests have also taken place with old vessels from Norway. A report published in April, shows that 8 former Norwegian vessels are now fishing in Western Sahara. 

Illustration: MarineTraffic.com showing movements of fishing vessel Astrid, 2021.
Illustration: MarineTraffic.com showing movements of fishing vessel Astrid, 2021.

On 29 June 2023, the Swedish-flagged fishing vessel Westerö Av Hönö (IMO 6815639) had notified that it was heading to occupied Western Sahara, according to the ship monitoring website Fleetmon. From what Western Sahara Resource Watch understands, the fishing vessel is in fact heading in the direction of Gambia, where it has apparently been exported to. The ship tracking website Fleetmon has listed the 55 year old fishing vessel as being “scrapped”, while MarineTraffic has listed it as “decommissioned or lost”. Neither the websites MarineTraffic nor Vesselfinder have reported on the ship heading out of Europe. In the EU Commission registry of the EU fishing fleet, the ship changed status to “retired” on 1 June 2023. As this is most likely a case of export out of the EU, it is unclear why the ship was not in fact reclassified into the EU's code for “exportation”.  

Western Sahara has been under illegal Moroccan occupation since the 1970s. The European Court of Justice has found the EU-Moroccan fisheries agreements to be in violation of international and EU law. This has however not stopped the exports of European ships - mostly from Northern Europe - into the occupied territory, where they are used by Moroccan business interests. 


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