Viewing cable 04MADRID4060
Title: ALLEGED MISDEEDS OF U.S. FLAGGED RESEARCH VESSEL

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04MADRID40602004-10-19 14:31:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 004060 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR OES/OA (LIZ TIRPAK) AND EUR/WE 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/19/2014 
TAGS: ENRG PREL MARR KRVC TPHY SP EWWTSP
SUBJECT: ALLEGED MISDEEDS OF U.S. FLAGGED RESEARCH VESSEL 
 
Classified By: ECONCOUNS WHITNEY BAIRD PER 1.4 (B/D) 
 
¶1.  (C) The R/V Powell has been on U.S. Embassy Madrid's 
radar screen since September, when it first contacted us for 
assistance in processing a request to make a port call in a 
Spanish harbor.  Since our first contact with it, this vessel 
has demonstrated a consistent pattern of ignoring and at 
times trying to circumvent established U.S.-Spanish 
mechanisms for processing port call requests.  What had been 
a relatively minor issue (complicating U.S.-Spanish port 
visit cooperation), just ratcheted up a few notches with the 
publication of several articles the Spanish press over the 
weekend that alleged that the vessel, between its port calls 
in Spanish harbors, had been exploring for oil in Spanish 
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters under contract to the 
Moroccan Government. 
 
¶2.  (C) The press coverage to date appears to have been a mix 
of truth and speculation.  The truth part documents the 
vessel's past history of ignoring/circumventing Spanish port 
call procedures and the fact that it is currently illegally 
berthed in Las Palmas port (its last entry permit having 
expired on October 12).  The Embassy can verify some of these 
shenanigans.  It also appears to be true (published 
admissions by its owner/operator) that the vessel is under 
contract to the U.S. oil firm Kerr-McGee, who in cooperation 
with Shell, is exploring the area between the Canary Islands 
and the disputed Western Sahara territory for oil.  What is 
not clear to us is Kerr-McGee/Shell's contractual 
relationship with the Moroccan Government.  The Spanish press 
reports that Kerr-McGee has been under contact to the 
Moroccan Government since November 2001 to explore for oil in 
this area.  It also reports that a Moroccan official was 
aboard the Powell while it was conducting its activities. 
 
¶3. (U) What appears to be speculation, at least for now, is 
the allegation that the vessel has been taking samples in 
Spanish EEZ waters.  Press reporting of Spanish port/military 
officials quote officials indicating that the vessel has had 
administrative problems relating to its port visit requests. 
The press line stating that the vessel may have been 
exploring for oil in Spanish EEZ waters comes only from 
"unnamed" military sources.  Officials associated with TDI 
Brooks, the owners of the vessel, are quoted in the press 
asserting that their oil exploration activities were limited 
to Moroccan waters.  And remember that there is nothing in 
customary international law to stop the Powell from sailing 
in Spanish EEZ waters.  If there is something to the 
speculation, it may come down to whether the Powell actually 
took samples in EEZ waters claimed by Spain. 
 
¶4. (C) Part of the problem has been some confusion on all 
sides (including the USG) regarding whether the Powell needed 
a formal clearance to enter Spanish ports.  The U.S. has 
claimed it did not given its commercial vice scientific 
mission.  The Spanish authorities, who own the ports in 
question and thus hold all the cards, have consistently said 
the Powell does require such permits, given its 
classification as a research vessel.  In other words, the 
vessel's classification and not its mission is the key point 
for Spain.  In the end, the U.S. side acquiesced and on 
several occasions the Embassy interceded with Spanish 
authorities to get the Powell the port calls it desired. 
Notwithstanding the above, it has become readily clear to 
both the Spanish and Embassy authorities involved that the 
Powell has consistently played "fast and loose" in trying to 
get itself into port. 
 
¶5. (C) The story has not yet grown beyond the Canary Island 
and Madrid economic press ("Expansion" article of October 16 
- informal embassy translation emailed/faxed to OES/OA - Liz 
Tirpak and EUR/WE - Morgan Hall).  Nonetheless, given the 
recent tensions in the U.S.-Spanish bilateral relationship, 
we could easily see this story gaining traction and turning 
into a "U.S. Government helping Morocco poach Spanish oil" 
type of story line.  However it goes, we will be happy to see 
the stern of the Powell, whose representatives have been less 
than friendly in their interactions with Embassy officials 
and who have shown a unique ability to generate controversy 
wherever they sail. 
ARGYROS