Fugro is back in occupied Western Sahara

In 2010, the Dutch company Fugro promised to never again undertake operations in occupied Western Sahara. On Christmas Eve 2019, their vessels returned.
Published: 25.12 - 2019 13:04Printer version    
Fugro Gauss observed in the port of Caniçal, Madeira, on 1 December 2019, shortly before entering Saharawi waters.
This story was initially published on 24 December 2019 with incorrect information that Fugro was engaged in seismic studies for oil exploration. This was rectified on 31 December.

On 24 December, the seismic survey vessel Fugro Gauss appeared offshore the town of Dakhla in occupied Western Sahara. The operation is remarkable, in view of Fugro NV having explicitly stated to never again undertake operations in the territory.

In a letter to Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) on 30 December, Fugro confirms having carried out an operation in Western Sahara waters. The company states that the purpose of the operation was "to perform servey services for a Telecommunication Cable project which includes multiple territories and jurisdictions".

WSRW initially wrote on its websiste 24 December that the operation was related to oil exploration. That was incorrect.

The company confirmed to WSRW that "the Saharawi authorities were informed in detail" about the project, but that the authorities had not responded to correspondence. As such no consent has been obtained from the representative body of the Saharawi people.

From 24 December 2019, Fugro NV undertook seabed surveys offshore occupied Western Sahara for a telecom cable.
Fugro has been repeatedly involved in Western Sahara (see chronology below). The most recent episode, was when its Norwegian subsidiary Fugro-Geoteam AS in 2010 undertook exploration on behalf of the US company Kosmos Energy on a licence in 2009. Fugro-Geoteam responded to the critique by declaring it would never again carry out surveys off the coast of the territory. In a letter to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fugro-Geoteam, a subsidiary of Fugro NV, stated that it “has decided to abstain from any further involvement in Western Sahara until the political situation has been resolved".

Fugro-Geoteam’s Dutch parent company, Fugro NV, announced shortly after that it had the same policy as of Fugro-Geoteam, being “aware of, and endorses, the letter sent by Fugro-Geoteam AS dated 23 April 2010 to the Norwegian contact point for OECD”. It declared that the Western Sahara policy applies to all companies in the group.

Fugro declared on 4 May 2010 that it will not engage in further operations in Western Sahara. Because of this declaration, the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara chose not to proceed with an OECD complaint against Fugro.
The basis for Fugro NV's 2010 policy statement was that the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara in 2009 had registered a complaint with the Norwegian OECD contact point over violation of OECD’s guidelines for multinational companies. On the basis of Fugro-Geoteam’s apparent final exit from the territory, the Norwegian Support Committee announced that it had withdrawn the complaint, but that it would proceed with a complaint in the Netherlands unless the same guarantee would be given by the mother firm.

In 2012, Fugro's CEO clarified that its 2010 termination of activities in Western Sahara was due to a lack of local consultation.

The Court of Justice of the EU has on three occasions since 2016 confirmed that deals in Western Sahara must respect the Saharawi's right to consent.

Fugro Gauss (IMO 7824883, Gibraltar flagged) is managed and operated by Jasmund Shipping GmbH & Co, Bremen, Germany. Its registered owner is Foster Shipping NV. Insurance by Norwegian company GARD. Fugro Supporter (IMO 8518364, Bahamas flagged) is managed and operated by Fugro Marine Services BV in the Netherlands, a subsidiary of the Fugro NV group. Registered owner is Thalassa Z Maritime Co. Group Owner Maritime Consortium Inc-GRC. Insured by Norwegian company GARD. See technical details on Fugro Gauss here.

History of Fugro in Western Sahara
  • 1990s: Most likely, Fugro Airborne Surveys undertakes air studies of Western Sahara, over the Dakhla area.
  • June-September 2002: Fugro Geoteam AS participates in the seismic exploration of Western Sahara, commissioned by Norwegian seismic services company TGS-Nopec, which in turn worked on behalf of US company Kerr-McGee and French TotalFinaElf. The Norwegian Support Committee was asked by Fugro-Geoteam to direct requests to the mother company Fugro NV.
  • 2003: UK company Svitzer Ltd (or possibly Svitzer Marine), a subsidiary of Fugro NV, has its vessel Svitzer Meridian operating in Western Sahara until June 2004.
  • 2003: UK company Robertson Research, a subsidiary of Fugro NV, markets data from Western Sahara.
  • 6 June 2004: Polisario writes Fugro NV.
  • 30 July 2004. Pro-Saharawi solidarity associations meet with the directors of Fugro at the company headquarters in the Netherlands. The company states that all companies in the group were to contact the management if they ever were to receive requests or offers relating to Western Sahara in the future. At the time of the meeting, no operation was taking place.
  • 1 June 2006: WSRW writes Fugro to follow up the meeting at Fugro’s headquarters.
  • 6 June 2006: Fugro writes in a letter that it would not undertake future operations in Western Sahara.
  • January 2009: Despite of previous promises, Fugro-Geoteam AS, a Norwegian subsidiary of Fugro NV, starts seismic studies in Western Sahara, commissioned by Kosmos Energy. The issue caused an outcry, with protests from the Saharwi government and civil society. The Saharawis brought the issue up to the UN Security Council. WSRW wrote Fugro on 13 January 2009.
  • 2009: The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara files a complaint against Fugro Geoteam to the Norwegian National Contact Point of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies, for violation of the OECD Guidelines, arguing that violating the Saharawi people's right to self-determination over their own natural resources constitutes a human rights violation, and hence, a violation of the OECD Guidelines' paragraph on human rights.
  • 23 April 2010: Fugro-Geoteam AS writes to the Norwegian National Contact Point of OECD that it has “decided to abstain from any further involvement in Western Sahara until the political situation has been resolved”.
  • 29 April 2010: The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara announces to the mother company Fugro NV that it had withdrawn the complaint against the subsidiary in Norway, but that it would proceed with a complaint in the Netherlands unless the same guarantee would be given by the mother firm.
  • 4 May 2010: Fugro NV confirms in a letter that it “is aware of, and endorses, the letter sent by Fugro-Geoteam AS dated 23 April 2010 to the Norwegian contact point for OECD”. It declares that the Western Sahara policy applies to all companies in the group. This letter from 20 March 2010 is part of same correspondence.
  • 2012: Fugro's CEO clarifies in an investor meeting that its 2010 exit was due to a lack of local consultation. "The company is often involved in oil and gas exploitation in areas where the local population has not been consulted. For that reason, the company has for instance stopped its involvement in Western Sahara”.
  • 9 November 2019: The vessel Fugro Supporter arrives Dakhla port, only to stay in Western Sahara waters two days.
  • 24 December 2019: The vessel Fugro Gauss is observed operating offshore Western Sahara, for a week-long seabed survey.
  • 30 December 2019: Fugro confirms to WSRW that its position from 2010 to "abstain from any further involvement in Western Sahara until the political situation has been resolved" remains unchanged.

    Since you're here....
    WSRW’s work is being read and used more than ever. But our financial situation is tough. Our work takes time, dedication and diligence. But we do it because we believe it matters – and we hope you do too. If everyone who reads our website or likes us on Facebook, would contribute to our work – 3€, 5€, 27€ … what you can spare – the future of WSRW would be much more secure. You can donate to WSRW in less than a minute here.



    08.04 - 2020 / 12.07 - 2019Portugal energy consultants fail in geography
    30.03 - 2020 / 26.03 - 2020Africa main importer of frozen Saharawi fish
    26.03 - 2020 / 27.08 - 2010Support Western Sahara Resource Watch
    26.03 - 2020 / 25.03 - 2020What is Continental negotiating with OCP?
    18.03 - 2020 / 18.03 - 2020 EU Commission backtracks on labelling Western Sahara goods
    16.03 - 2020 / 16.03 - 2020German organisations condemn Continental's conflict conveyor
    09.03 - 2020 / 06.03 - 2020EU Parliament set for blind landing of aviation deal
    08.03 - 2020 / 06.03 - 2020Brexit UK risks copying EU’s Sahara flaws
    05.03 - 2020 / 24.11 - 2018Here is the EU Council's legal advice on fishing in occupied waters
    05.03 - 2020 / 05.03 - 2020Polisario files lawsuit against Kiwi pension fund
    24.02 - 2020 / 20.02 - 2020New report: Western Sahara phosphate trade halved
    21.02 - 2020 / 21.02 - 2020Why does this EU statement keep disappearing?
    19.02 - 2020 / 19.02 - 2020EU reaffirms: Western Sahara products to be labelled as such
    10.02 - 2020 / 10.02 - 2020Spectacular backtracking by EU Commission on Western Sahara labelling
    10.02 - 2020 / 10.02 - 2020Morocco tenders solar energy on occupied land
    07.02 - 2020 / 07.02 - 2020Siemens again refuses to answer questions about Western Sahara at AGM
    06.02 - 2020 / 06.02 - 2020EU Commission: products from Western Sahara must be labelled as such
    22.01 - 2020 / 22.01 - 2020States urge Spain to respect Saharawi rights in Human Rights Council
    13.01 - 2020 / 13.01 - 2020Continental negotiating contract renewal with OCP
    04.12 - 2019 / 04.12 - 2019Conflict beach taking shape in Canary Islands


    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.
    Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


    Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
    Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


    Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
    Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


    At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.

    WSRW.org News Archive 2019
    WSRW.org News Archive 2018
    WSRW.org News Archive 2017
    WSRW.org News Archive 2016
    WSRW.org News Archive 2015
    WSRW.org News Archive 2014
    WSRW.org News Archive 2013
    WSRW.org News Archive 2012
    WSRW.org News Archive 2011
    WSRW.org News Archive 2010
    WSRW.org News Archive 2009
    WSRW.org News Archive 2008
    WSRW.org News Archive 2007
    WSRW.org News Archive 2004-2006

    Register for our English newsletter:

    These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy