Rabat – The Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) has managed to secure its phosphate shipment back from South Africa, where it was detained on May 1, 2017, after Polisario claimed that the cargo was illegally taken from Western Sahara.
The Executive Vice President and General Council of OCP Group, Otmane Bennani-Smires, said in a statement,“Today, after unsuccessful attempts to sell the cargo, the refusal of all potential buyers to acquire this merchandise is clear and irrefutable proof of the illegitimacy of the property granted by [South Africa’s High] Court in Port Elizabeth to Polisario.”
After handing a pro-Polisario verdict against the Moroccan phosphate shipment, the court opened an exclusive bid auction in March to sell the detained 55,000 tons of phosphate cargo, which had been transported on the NM Cherry Blossom from the Marshall Islands.
The court decided that “phosphate ownership has never been legally held by the Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP) and/or Phosphates de Boucreaa SA,” because the cargo was deemed illegally obtained in Western Sahara.
Historically, South Africa has supported the Polisario Front and has recognized the so-called Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic since 2004, which has contributed to political tension between Morocco and South Africa.
According to the statement, the shipowner bought the cargo by paying legal fees and returned it to OCP for a nominal dollar.
OCP group denounced South Africa’s High Court decision, which had prevented the group from selling the phosphate cargo to Ballance Agri Nutrients Limited of New Zealand or any other international firm.
Morocco World News co-founder Samir Bennis wrote in May 2017, that the detention violated international law, which holds that foreign ships cannot be held unless they constitute a threat to the port country.
After the shipment seizure in South Africa, the Polisario Front made a similar complaint against OCP cargo in Panama. However, a Panama court denied the Polisario’s claims of ownership on grounds of “insufficient evidence” and released the cargo.