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Western Sahara

British companies are involved in the illegal exploitation of phosphate from Western Sahara, a new report has revealed.

One of the resources that Morocco illegally exports from occupied Sahrawi territory is phosphate, the element used in artificial fertilisers. Western Sahara has been one of the world’s largest suppliers of high-quality phosphate rock.

Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has illegally occupied the territory ever since. Western Sahara Resources Watch has successfully lobbied shipping companies to withdraw from Sahrawi phosphate transportation.

British insurance companies provide ‘protection and indemnity’ (P&I) insurance for many of the cargo vessels that carry Sahrawi phosphate rock around the world.

Four British ‘P&I Clubs’ covered 18 phosphate shipments from Western Sahara in 2018, according to P for Plunder, a new report from Western Sahara Resource Watch.

The vessels involved carried nearly a million tonnes of conflict phosphate to Canada, India, New Zealand and the US.

For example, the Lady Giovi transported 79,000 tonnes of Sahrawi phosphate to the US in August 2018. It was one of four conflict shipments insured by UK P&I Club, whose head office is 90 Fenchurch Street, London.

The Triton Swan, which carried 59,000 tonnes of Sahrawi phosphate to India in March–April 2018, was one of eight conflict shipments insured by the West of England Ship Owners Mutual Insurance Association, head office 226 Tower Bridge Road, London.

The Britannia Steam Ship Insurance Association, head office 45 King William Street, London, licensed three phosphate shipments from Western Sahara which carried 177,000 tonnes in total.

The exact same total, 177,000 tonnes, was shipped (all to Canada) under cover provided by the North of England P&I Association, head office 100 The Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Another British connection to the illegal phosphate trade is Borealis Maritime Ltd, based at 55 Brompton Road, London. This is the company that operated the Bomar Oyster, which carried 54,000 tonnes of stolen Sahrawi phosphate rock to India in August–September 2018.

The Moroccan state company that exports Sahrawi (and Moroccan) phosphate is called OCP (Office Chérifien des Phosphates). It reported $562m in profits in 2018.

OCP is registered on the Irish stock exchange, where its affairs are co-managed by Britain’s Barclays bank (along with Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, from the US). The Barclays head office is in Canary Wharf: 1 Church Hill Place, London.

The full P for Plunder report from Western Sahara Resource Watch can be downloaded from: www.wsrw.org

Topics: Western Sahara