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Ballance phosphate cargo detained

Ballance phosphate cargo detained after further court setback.

Western Sahara Campaign notes that the High Court of South Africa has continued the detention of a cargo of phosphate rock bound for Ballance Agri-Nutrients, in New Zealand, from occupied Western Sahara.

On May 1 the government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (the SADR) and the Saharawi national liberation movement, the Polisario Front, obtained a civil court order to detain a cargo of phosphate mineral rock transiting through South Africa, illegally exported from occupied Western Sahara in April. The 54,000 metric tonnes cargo, purchased by the New Zealand fertilizer company Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited, has a value estimated at more than $7 million (NZD).

After 45 days, the cargo remains under detention aboard the Marshall Islands registered bulk carrier NM Cherry Blossom at anchor in Port Elizabeth.

Today, June 15th, the High Court of South Africa issued a decision on a review of the May 1 order to detain the cargo. This procedural step is a routine one in South Africa’s civil justice system. The Court confirmed the correctness of the May 1 order, that it had been obtained on proper grounds. The civil lawsuit will now be scheduled for a trial on the question of ownership rights to the cargo. Over the years, virtually every phosphate purchasing company had been warned of the risks of importing the commodity, including that ownership rights to it could not be transferred because of Western Sahara’s illegal occupation.

The Saharawi government has, through its legal team in South Africa, noted that it will receive favourably requests by parties interested in the motor vessel NM Cherry Blossom to
release the cargo and permit the ship to resume ordinary trading. An unusual aspect of the case is that no party, including the New Zealand co-operative Ballance Agri-Nutrients as owner nor the time charterer of the ship, has yet proposed putting forward or substituting a form of security for the value of the cargo.

Today, June 16th, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chief Executive, Mark Wynne, in a Radio NZ interview, tried to defend the shipment. He claimed it was a 'very complex' then said 'our little phosphate shipment is just a very small part of this great big jigsaw'. He overlooked the fact that New Zealand is the second biggest importer of this phosphate rock. Further, Wynne then spoke of Ballance's contingency arrangements without saying that includes another shipment from Western Sahara which is now aboard the vessel Common Spirit due in Tauranga about June the 24th.

Western Sahara Campaign-NZ calls on Ballance Agri-Nutrients to stop importing phosphate rock from Western Sahara and move to using alternative suppliers.

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