In 2010, the Dutch company Fugro promised to never again undertake operations in occupied Western Sahara. On Christmas Eve 2019, their vessels returned.
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.
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.
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
Incentivized by Morocco's plans to construct another port to accommodate its exports of conflict minerals from occupied Western Sahara, port construction firm Archirodon Group NV opens a subsidiary in the last colony of Africa.
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.