Dutch vessel transporting resources from occupied Western Sahara
A Dutch cargo vessel is at present transporting illegally extracted sand from the occupied Western Sahara to Casablanca, Morocco. This contravenes the advice of the Dutch government, which discourages doing business in Western Sahara.
“The Dutch government does not recognise the Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and discourages doing investments or business in the territory of Western Sahara below the 27th parallel”, says the advice of the Dutch government.
But a vessel that appears in the fleet list of Wagenborg Shipping BV, a shipping company from Delfzijl in the Netherlands, is currently involved in the transport of sand from occupied Western Sahara.
The cargo vessel “Fensfjord” is owned by the Norwegian shipping company Fonnes Shipping AS, but has been chartered by Wagenborg Shipping BV. The Netherlands is also the flag state of the vessel.
On Monday 27 May, the Fensfjord arrived at the harbour of El Aaiun, the capital of Western Sahara – a territory that has been occupied by Morocco since 1975. After loading more than 4000 tonnes of sand, the vessel set sail for Casablanca, Morocco.
Norwegian owner passes the buck on to Wagenborg Shipping
In an interview with Norwegian newspaper Strilen yesterday, the Norwegian Shipping company Fonnes Shipping AS that owns the Fensfjord, put the blame entirely on the Dutch company Wagenborg. Hans Petter Fonnes, who owns and manages Fonnes Shipping with his brother Roy Fonnes, told the newspaper that he is aware of the political situation in Western Sahara.
When confronted with the position of the Norwegian government, which urges Norwegian companies to not carry out business in this territory, Fonnes stated that he considers that the advice is not valid in this case.
"We don’t do business in Western Sahara. The vessel is owned and operated from the Netherlands and is only managed from Austrheim", he stated. He explained that they are not the ones who decide which assignments the vessel takes on. "It is a brokering firm in the Netherlands that does that. We go where we are assigned to", he told.
"There is nothing illegal in what we do", says Fonnes.
Africa's last colony
Since 1975, three quarters of the Western Sahara territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco. The original population lives divided between those suffering human rights abuses under the Moroccan occupation and those living in exile in Algerian refugee camps. For more than 40 years, the Saharawi await the fulfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.