The Chinese seemingly work for Total

A subsidiary of China's national oil company seems these days to do seismographic studies on Total's block in occupied Western Sahara. WSRW today protested against the operations.
Published: 06.12 - 2012 10:53Printer version    
Graphics by: Trygg Mat/Exactearth. Click on images for higher resolution

China's state oil company, CNPC, through its subsidiary BGP, owns a vessel that is now operating in Western Sahara's waters.

The vessel arrived Western Sahara on 26 October. The red track shows its movements from 26 October until now. The blue track represents the vessel's movements the last 6 days. It has during the entire period been operating in the waters west of Dakhla.

It was only few days ago that WSRW discovered Total's massive block in Western Sahara. Yesterday, WSRW wrote that Total had carried out exploration of the waters this summer through the UK company Gardline. The Chinese involvement through BGP could be Total's second exploration programme in the territory this summer/autumn.

The vessel, BGP Prospector, is present on the block that Total has acquired. WSRW has never seen any reference to this programme in media or on the internet. Total's licence was reportedly signed on 6 December 2011, and could be ending today, 12 months later. The question now is whether they intend to renew, stop the programme, or convert the licence into a different kind of agreement.

bgp_prospector_12.06.2012_11.29_ama_400.jpgThe request below was 6 December 2012 sent to the Chinese companies BGP and CNPC.

P.O.Box 11
Zhuozhou Hebei
072751 P.R.China
Oslo, 6 Dec 2012

Regarding your seismographic vessel offshore Western Sahara

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) has taken note of the fact that your seismographic research vessel BGP Prospector (IMO number 9545986) is currently located offshore Dakhla, Western Sahara.

We observe that the vessel entered the waters of Western Sahara on October 26th, and is still operating there.

As you probably know, Morocco illegally occupies parts of the territory. The UN Legal Office has stated that further exploration of the natural resources off Western Sahara would be in violation of international law if the people of the territory do not consent and if they do not benefit from them. See the UN 2002 legal opinion on

It is in WSRWs opinion that oil exploration activities in Western Sahara in cooperation with the Moroccan state oil company directly contribute to undermine the UN peace process in Western Sahara, and the rights of the people of the territory.

In line with the UN legal opinion, we appeal to BGPs and CNPCs own statements of Corporate Social
Responsibility to immediately terminate its activities in Western Sahara.

Furthermore, WSRW would like an answer from BGP, or from your mother company CNPC, on the following questions:

a) Exactly what kind of activity is BGP Prospector currently carrying out offshore Western Sahara?
b) On behalf of which party/parties does BGP undertake the activities?

Looking forward to your response,

For your information, this request has also been published on our webpages, Copy of this request has been sent to CNPC press centre, at


Erik Hagen
Chair, Western Sahara Resource Watch
Oslo, Norway



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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.
EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
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