Dimmalaetting: Thor involved in liberation struggle in Africa
Offshore: Thor in Hósvik has ended up in the world spotlight, after it has been known that the company has worked in an area that the whole world is boycotting. The company claims to not have known about the tense situation in the area, and has now no plans to continue in the area. Dimmalaetting (Faeroe Islands), 11 January 2005.
Thor involved in liberation struggle in Africa Georg, L. Petersen, www.dimma.fo [Translated from Faeroese by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara]
Offshore: Thor in Hósvik has ended up in the world spotlight, after it has been known that the company has worked in an area that the whole world is boycotting. The company claims to not have known about the tense situation in the area, and has now no plans to continue in the area.
-If Thor has used one of their ships offshore Western Sahara, they have contributed to laying the basis for an illegal oil exploration, says Erik Hagen, leader of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
-We were there for two months in 2002. That is correct. But we knew nothing about the political problems in the area, says Hans A. Joensen, CEO in P/F Thor in Hósvik, owner of several ships, all working in the offshore industry.
Occupied country In 1975 the king of Morocco, Hassan, sent people into Western Sahara, occupying the country. There has been a protracted conflict over the country, which used to be under Spanish rule. Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria all had interests in the country, and a liberation movement, Polisario, also took part in the conflict. Save a few exceptions, the international community has never recognized Western Sahara as part of Morocco.
Not many people live in the country, but a great number live in refugee camps in the neighbouring country Algeria. But there are great natural resources, and that is what has attracted the interests of the conflicting parties.
The international community is now anxious that Morocco let the country be self-governed, but Morocco is refusing since it has become such an important part of their economy.
And this is where oil comes into the picture. In 2001, Morocco started oil exploration and exploitation, signing their first contracts. This led to strong protests, and Polisario claimed it was a violation of the ceasefire.
The company participating in the beginning, Norwegian TGS-Nopec, had agreements with the American Kerr-McGee and the French Total, who in turn had agreements with the Moroccan public company ONHYM. Thor, in turn, had an agreement with TGS-Nopec. A global campaign was launched against TGS-Nopec, Kerr-McGee and Total, and the Norwegian government seriously questioned the involvement of the Norwegian company.
And that made a difference. In 2003, TGS-Nopec made public that they withdrew, and that they would never again work offshore Western Sahara. Total withdrew from the area in October of last year. The only company left is the American Kerr-McGee, who lost one of their Dutch partners for the same reason.
Will not continue -The Support Committee for Western Sahara wants to know what kind of ethical, political and legal considerations Thor made, when they chose to use their ship in an illegally occupied area. It is possible that Thor never broke any law, but they have contributed to laying the basis for a crime, says Erik Hagen. He also finds it strange that a ship from the Faeroe Islands gets involved in the conflict over self-determination in a different country.
-One would have thought that particularly the Faereoese would know the significance of self-determination and prospects for oil, says Erik Hagen.
Hans A. Joensen from Thor says that he did not know about the tense political situation in the area.
-We have a motto that we respect all international and national laws. We would like to emphasize that particular message, says Hans A. Joensen. Therefore, Thor will never again send another ship to the area offshore Western Sahara, even if they get the possibility.
He says that they check out the companies that contract them, but that these investigations are only done on the financial aspects. Which areas they operate in geographically is never checked.
-We have never checked with any political authorities, so we would not know anything about the political situation. And that is why, without being aware that they are doing injustice to a people seeking self-determination, they have written on their homepage that their boat, Leitissteinur, has worked off the coast of Morocco.
-Calling this area Morocco is very regrettable, as it shows that they have recognized an illegal occupation. They have interfered in a political conflict, says Erik Hagen.
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.
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