The vessel "Harrier Explorer" is currently shooting 2D images of the seabed in the El Aaiun-Tarfaya basis offshore occupied Western Sahara.
The owner of the MV Harrier Explorer, the Norwegian company SeaBird Exploration Plc, has been contracted for the operation in November, and has received approximately US $ 2 million to survey a minimum of 2,000 kilometers in the area. The operation will take an estimated 20 days to complete and has kicked off about 10 days ago.
The story made headlines in one of Norway's biggest newspapers, Dagbladet, today. Former Legal Counsel of the UN, Mr. Hans Corell, is highly critical to the operation. He stated to Dagbladet that seismic studies in Western Sahara would be in violation of international law, as described in the Legal Opinion he wrote for the UN Security Council in 2002. He stated to the newspaper that the "UN Security Council should act more resolutely on the issue".
"SeaBird's actions are completely contrary to international law", says WSRW's Chairman Erik Hagen in the paper, "the company is playing a crucial role in facilitating illegal oil production in the areas of Western Sahara that Morocco so brutally occupies".
Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and continues to occupy three quarters of the territory to this very day. The United Nations consider Western Sahara to be a colony, and have labelled economic activities in the territory to be illegal if they do not respect the wishes and the interests of the people of Western Sahara, the Saharawis.
SeaBird's CEO Dag Reynolds, has not yet commented to Dagbladet.
The Norwegian government urges Norwegian companies to stay clear from Western Sahara, as Norway does not recognise Morocco's annexation of parts of the territory, as described for instance by Norway's deputy minister for foreign affairs earlier this year.
The above map shows the position of the Harrier Explorer in the early hours of 30 November 2014.
According to IHS, the areas that are being surveyed are the so-called Foum Ognit I-IV Blocks, held by New Age 56.25%, Glencore18.75% and Moroccan state oil agency ONHYM 25%. The map below details the location of the Blocks under revision (blue area). However, the actual location of the vessel indicates that it is currently a few miles to the north of the Glencore block. WSRW estimates that it is likely that the vessel does indeed work for Glencore on the Foum Ognit.
In October this year, WSRW revealed that Glencore had an 18,75% interest in the Foum Ognit blocks.
Norway-based SeaBird is a global provider of marine acquisition for 2D/3D and 4D seismic data, and associated products and services to the oil and gas industry. SeaBird is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange.
This is the fourth Norwegian seismic involvement in Western Sahara. All the 3 previous companies involved have abandoned such projects due to the controversies involved:
The German government has clarified that its financial support for Siemens Energy will include a provision excluding the firm’s projects in “Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara”.
Companies that want to be perceived as taking human rights responsibly, should not bid on a large tender that will connect Morocco's illegal energy production in Western Sahara to the Moroccan grid, WSRW warns.
Morocco must immediately release a group of leading human rights defenders, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention demands.