Spectrum Geo denies collecting data on disputed oil blocks in Indian Ocean

Published: February 20, 2019

The Norwegian consultancy firm that gathered data on Mogadishu’s oil stock in the Indian Ocean says it only worked on blocks in Somali territory.

The information gathered by Spectrum Geo was used to market the blocks to investors in London.


In a brief statement on Monday, Graham Mayhew, the company’s Executive Vice-President for Africa, said it had been contracted to gather seismic data only in Somali territory, avoiding the regions contested by Kenya.

“Spectrum acquired a total of 20,185km of 2D seismic data, in a grid stretching from south of the maritime border with the Federal State of Puntland, to north of the maritime border with the Republic of Kenya.

“All of this seismic data was acquired wholly within the maritime territory of the Federal Government of Somalia and no data were acquired within the area currently the subject of the maritime delimitation case with Kenya,” he said.

The company, though not responding directly, was referring to Kenya’s claim on Saturday that Somalia had “auctioned” oil blocks belonging to Nairobi, during an oil conference on February 7 in London.

Somali delegates had marketed their oil stock profile to investors, largely relying on seismic data gathered by Spectrum since 2015 when it signed a contract with Mogadishu to obtain additional data.

The data depicted oil stocks in 15 blocks, covering water depths of between 30 metres to 4 kilometres, analysed using what Spectrum called modern processing algorithms to achieve “optimal imaging of steeply-dipping extensional and compressional features and illumination of subtle amplitude anomalies.”

The company confirmed no oil blocks had been auctioned but said the conference had only been a “promotion” of the Somalia offshore oil and gas.


Mogadishu had equally denied the charge on Sunday.

But even as the firm clarified the matter, both sides continued to front divergent maps of the same area.

Spectrum produced a map of seismic study area, indicating all the 15 blocks were in Somali territory, including the three southern blocks in the Jubba-Lamu Basin, but north of the parallel latitude proposed by Kenya.

Kenya had on its part produced the same map, but indicating the blocks labelled L21, L23, L24 and L25 as some of those controversially marketed.

Despite the apparent calming of the tensions between Nairobi and Mogadishu; the tiff over which blocks should be marketed and which ones shouldn’t have been a matter of controversy before.

Long before Somalia filed a case at the International Court of Justice, seeking to redraw the maritime boundary with Kenya, it accused Kenya of granting exploration licences to French firm Total and Italian firm Eni; even as the two sides presented the disputed before the UN Commission on Law of the Sea.

Somalia would later sue at the ICJ, but the matter on exploration still emerged.

For example, Somalia’s legal team argued Kenya had continued offering  offshore blocks based on its claimed boundary, even though Somalia objected.


“Kenya’s Block L-22 straddles the equidistance line in areas between approximately 52 and 104 miles from the coast,” Somalia argued in its submissions.

“Kenya awarded it to the French oil company Total SA in 2012. In 2013, Total carried out a 2D seismic survey and sea core drilling operations in the area,” the court heard.

Somalia told the Court that blocks L21, L23 and L24 which Kenya claims as being in its territory “lie in deeper water entirely or predominantly on the Somali side of the equidistance line.

The ICJ, which has binding decisions on both Kenya and Somalia, allowed the case to continue to full hearing despite Kenya objecting, arguing there was an MOU that provided for alternative dispute resolution.

A bench of 13 judges, where three dissented, agreed that the MoU, signed by then Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang’ula and former Somali Planning Minister Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, was a legal document for both Somalia and Kenya.

But the court ruled it had jurisdiction because the document did not actually provide for a method to resolve the dispute.

Mr Warsame, had earlier told the Nation that his wish for MoU was rejected by Somali MPs, and that the court should resolve the issue.

Now the leader of the opposition party Wadajir, he has been campaigning against any marketing of oil blocks unless there is full transparency and proper legal regime.

Mr Wetang’ula on his part says Kenya should only have cautioned investors to check where the blocks lie before entering any deals, rather than issuing a harsh statement.


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