By David Stenerud
In 1997, Kværner R. J. Brown in Singapore signed a deal with Premier Oil to assist the development of the Yetagun gas field outside the coast of Burma. The UK-based oil company is the operator of the field, which they own in partnership with the military junta's oil company, Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise, and others.
The contract instructed the Kværner subsidiary to design the top deck and modules as well as to assist the construction of a gas production platform. The contract was valued to about 75 million NOK (8.5 million US$).
In the autumn of 1999, Kværner Energy and the information director Marit Ytreeide were confronted with the fact that by operating in Burma, the company had neglected both the Norwegian Government's recommendations not to trade with Burma, as well as the company's own statement of not doing business in that country (see NorWatch 13/1999). The construction of the platform was at that point completed, but even based on belated wisdom, the information director didn't wish to discuss the Burma issue.
- I don't think I shall have an opinion on whether this was right or wrong, said Ytreeide then.
Change of mind
On the evening (Norwegian time) of August 21, it was announced that Kværner's Singapore office had signed another contract with Premier Oil's Burmese company, Premier Petroleum Myanmar Ltd. The 267 million NOK (30 million US$) contract involved the up-grade of the gas platform which Kværner had helped construct some few years earlier.
The new Burma contract was made public by a press note and boastfully celebrated.
- This recognition enforces our relationship to Premier Oil, said a proud George Lim, President of Kvaerner E&C Asia Pacific, according to the Norwegian daily paper, Dagens Næringsliv.
Only hours later, the contract was abolished.
- As soon as the European management was informed about the contract, a message to withdraw from the contract was sent to the Singapore office, explains information director, Marit Ytreeide, to the Norwegian news agency, NTB. The urgent decision was, however, not accounted for.
- The decision was made on the grounds of human rights issues, says the information director when NorWatch called her up.
- But what has changed since 1999, when you were cited on.
- Yes, but, interrupts the information director, isn't it a good thing if we have changed to the better?
Ytreeide explains that a consensus on the Burma issue is established in Kværner.
Does that imply that any commercial relationship with Burma is now unthinkable?
- Considering that what has happened actually has happened, I believe that is correct, yes, replies the information director -
before she asks:
- Couldn't that only be marked as a good reference?
"Couldn't that only be marked as a good reference?"
Marit Ytreeide, Vice president (Corporate Communications), Kværner
Kværner R. J. Brown in Singapore
In 1997, Kværner R. J. Brown won a contract to design the top deck and modules for a gas platform at the Yetagun field outside the coast of Burma. The gas field is owned by a consortium led by the British company Premier Oil in co-operation with the oil company of the Burmese military junta (15% share). The gas production was initiated in 2000 and the daily production rate amounts to 5-6 million cubic metres. The gas is transported by pipelines to Thailand. Nobel Price Price laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, has made harsh comments on the Yetagun operator: "Premier Oil not only supports the military government financially, it also gives moral support and does democracy a disservice. They should be ashamed of themselves." In August 2001, Kværner was given a contract to up-grade the gas platform. However, Kværner E & C in London instructed the Singapore office to immediately cancel the deal.
Norwatch Newsletter 8/01