Rabat - The hearing of the Moroccan phosphate shipment currently held in South Africa’s Port Elizabeth is scheduled to take place on May 18, said Andre Bowley, a lawyer for Algeria-backed Polisario in Cape Town.
Rabat – The hearing of the Moroccan phosphate shipment currently held in South Africa’s Port Elizabeth is scheduled to take place on May 18, said Andre Bowley, a lawyer for Algeria-backed Polisario in Cape Town.
The shipment, which was carrying 50,000 tons of phosphate worth USD 5 million, was detained after Polisario Front complained that its cargo had been transported illegally from the Western Sahara.
The NM Cherry Blossom, carrying the shipment for the OCP, was detained by a civil maritime order in Port Elizabeth, where it had stopped to re-fuel. Phosphate importers in New Zealand said that this is the first seizure of Moroccan shipments they had experienced in 30 years.
The shipment’s owners, the Moroccan state-run Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), have told the press that the seizure was a “very normal procedure” and was just a temporary measure pending the review of Polisario’s complaint.
Commenting on this provocation by South Africa, which is well-known supporter of Polisario, Moroccan government has said that “Morocco is in a proper legal situation,” adding that “the maneuvers of [Morocco’s] rivals will fail.”
“The natural resources of the Moroccan Sahara are invested in the framework of international law and the requirements of national sovereignty,” said Mustapha Khalfi, the Minister in charge of Relations with Parliament and Civil Society and Spokesperson of government, in a press conference Thursday.
The legality of the detention has been called into question. According to Samir Bennis, co-founder and senior political analyst of Morocco World News, articles 17, 18, and 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea guarantee all states the right to traverse the territorial waters of other states. This right of “innocent passages” can only be denied if the vessel in question constitutes a threat to the security of the coastal state, but so far no threat has been identified.