MUA condemns import of illegal cargo from Western Sahara

October 25, 2022
Photo: Maritime Union of Australia

The Maritime Union of Australia has condemned an Australian company for resuming trade of a plundered commodity from Western Sahara, a country the United Nations has declared to be under an illegal occupation by Morocco.

Incitec Pivot imported illegal cargo in the Clipper Isadora from the occupied Western Sahara through the Port of Geelong. It offloaded 33,000 tonnes of plundered phosphate mineral rock worth $15 million on October 20.

Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, said under international criminal law, the export and sale of Western Sahara’s phosphate rock — a non-renewable resource — is a war crime.

Western Sahara is the largest and most populous territory on the United Nations’ list of Non-Self Governing Territories.

The campaign by the people of Western Sahara and its quest for independence is analogous to the struggle by the East Timorese, which came to a head in 1999 after the referendum.

“The Maritime Union has a long and proud tradition of solidarity with international campaigns for sovereignty and self-determination. We join with representatives of the Saharawi people in Australia in condemning Incitec Pivot for its decision to recommence trade in this illegally plundered resource,” Crumlin said.

“We must respect the sovereignty of First Nations people throughout the globe and their rights to the natural resources of their homelands.

“The exploration and extraction of these finite resources should be for the benefit of their true owners, not those who illegally occupy their territory,” Crumlin said.

The Saharawi government pursued civil legal proceedings in 2017 against separate cargos of phosphate rock, successfully detaining cargo ships in Panama and South Africa.

In determining the cargo to be the sovereign resource of the Saharawi government and people, the South African High Court said Western Sahara is occupied under international law and that Morocco and its state-owned companies could not lawfully purport to sell the commodity.

David Ball, MUA Victorian Branch Secretary, said: “MUA members are concerned to know they’ve been told to work a ship carrying an illegal, plundered cargo.

“Our labour in Australia should not go towards turning a profit for those who are illegally occupying the Western Sahara.”

The MUA understands that Saharawi authorities are considering several possible actions including civil and criminal action against Incitec Pivot, legal action against the Clipper Isadora in subsequent countries where the ship may appear, as well as formal complaints to United Nations agencies.

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