Seismic services company renounces further Western Sahara involvement
Dutch seismic services firm Fugro NV, and its Norwegian subsidiary Fugro-Geoteam, state they do not want to undertake any more assignments in Western Sahara under the current political situation in the country.
The Dutch seismic services company Fugro NV, and its Norwegian subsidiary have decided never again to carry out surveys off the coast of occupied Western Sahara. In a letter to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fugro-Geoteam stated that it “has decided to abstain from any further involvement in Western Sahara until the political situation has been resolved".
The letter was sent to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 April this year, when the affair around the Norwegian fish-oil imports was raging in Norwegian national media.
Last year Fugro-Geoteam carried out seismic surveys for Morocco off the coast of Western Sahara, even though UN legal office had stated that such oil exploration would be in conflict with international law.
“The company chose to ignore the Sahrawis’ rights and to defy the Ministry’s dissuasion. The fact that it now says that it will never repeat its involvement shows that it has finally taken the criticism seriously,” Ronny Hansen of The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara stated. “A long series of letters that we, our European allies and Polisario have sent to Fugro-Geoteam and Fugro NV during the past year, in which we request information about their involvement, have not been answered.”
“The admission was nevertheless tardy. The data have already been gathered and delivered to the American company it worked for. Fugro-Geoteam has already prepared everything for a breach of international law and a conflict escalation in Western Sahara,” Hansen said.
Fugro-Geoteam was engaged in seismic surveys off Western Sahara on assignment for the American company Kosmos Energy in January 2009. The assignment resulted in strong protests from the liberation movement Polisario, which complained about the Norwegian seismic assignment to the UN’s Security Council. Sahrawi refugees in the Canary Islands (right) and Sahrawi students in Morocco demonstrated against the Norwegian surveys. In the autumn of 2009 the company was not permitted to participate in the “career days” at the University of Oslo.
Fugro-Geoteam’s Dutch parent company, Fugro NV, also announced this week that it would terminate its involvement in Western Sahara.
“Please be informed that Fugro N.V. is aware of, and endorses, the letter sent by Fugro-Geoteam AS dated 23 April 2010 to the Norwegian contact point for OECD”, stated Fugro NV to the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara on 4 May 2010.
Different Fugro NV subsidiaries have been involved in the territory for a decade. The fact that the parent company in the Netherlands also has decided to terminate its activities may have consequences both onshore and offshore for Morocco’s oil programme in the territory.
The basis for Fugro-Geoteam’s statement is that the Support Committee in December last year registered a complaint with the Norwegian contact point for OECD for violation of OECD’s guidelines for multinational companies. On the basis of Fugro-Geoteam’s admission, the Support Committee has now withdrawn the complaint.
This is the sixth company in the international oil industry to terminate its involvement in Western Sahara after pressure from the solidarity movement.
The company that Fugro-Geoteam AS worked for last year, Kosmos Energy, still maintains its contract for offshore oil exploration in violation of the UN opinion from 2002. The Irish firm Island Oil and Gas, together with San Leon Ennergy, maintains several agreements onshore the occupied territory.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
The US oil company Kosmos Energy and the Scottish company Cairn Energy will drill for oil offshore Western Sahara. It is clearly in violation of international law, according to the UN - and it destroys the UN peace efforts. Here is what you need to know.