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Oceanor's Seawatch project at the verge of collapse: SOS from Indonesian project manager

One year after the Norwegian environmental technology firm Oceanor pulled out of its involvement with the Seawatch project in Indonesia, the Indonesian manager of the project has contacted NorWatch with the following message: Due to a lack of spare parts and follow-up from Oceanor, the entire NORAD-funded project is about to go down the drain. Of the twelve Seawatch buoys to be deployed into the ocean, only one has in fact been deployed. It lies just outside project headquarters in Jakarta.
Artikkelen er mer enn to år gammel. Ting kan ha endret seg.
One year after the Norwegian environmental technology firm Oceanor pulled out of its involvement with the Seawatch project in Indonesia, the Indonesian manager of the project has contacted NorWatch with the following message: Due to a lack of spare parts and follow-up from Oceanor, the entire NORAD-funded project is about to go down the drain. Of the twelve Seawatch buoys to be deployed into the ocean, only one has in fact been deployed. It lies just outside project headquarters in Jakarta.


By Harald Eraker
Norwatch

In 1995, the Indonesian government agreed to buy 12 Seawatch buoys from the Norwegian company Oceanor. The price tag was at NOK 108 million, and NORAD gave support to the project in the form of a NOK 30 million loan.

The Seawatch buoys were to be deployed in Indonesian waters to give warnings of algae invasions, radioactivity, pollution, and weather conditions by means of advanced equipment. During the first phase of the project, from 1996 till 1999, Oceanor was present in Indonesia running training and implementation of the project.

Meanwhile, both the company and NORAD have been criticised in many quarters for the Seawatch project being far too expensive and complicated in countries like Indonesia (cf. NorWatch nos. 11-96, 8-97 and 2-99). Now, they are being criticised by their own people.

One of twelve
NorWatch was recently contacted by a despairing Agus Setiawan, the Indonesian manager of the Seawatch project in Jakarta. In several e-mails, he explains that the entire project is about to run aground.

This is because the project lacks spare parts, follow-up, and financial resources. Setiawan lists a number of defects in the hi-tech equipment that comes with the Seawatch buoys. Perhaps the greatest concern is that the hard disks on all the buoys, the most important component according to Setiawan, are defect.

As a result, only one of the twelve buoys has been deployed. The others have either been run down by fishing boats, drifted off-course, or been used as dividing buoys. For financial reasons, the one buoy that is still in use is located very close to the Seawatch office in Jakarta.

Empty promises
To put it mildly, Setiawan, a project participant since its 1996 startup and its manager since 1998, is not happy with Oceanor and NORAD.

In his e-mails to NorWatch, he writes that they have protested and asked Oceanor for spare parts and support hundreds of times, but that after the company pulled out of the project in March last year, all they have been given is empty promises. The following example from Setiawan's e-mail dated March 17 shows how the Indonesians have experienced Norwegian aid:

"Now the project is already finished, but we cannot use Norway/Oceanor high technology, especially the buoy, because the most important spare part in the buoy i.e. the hard disk is broken."

Time and again, the Indonesian project manager repeats that Oceanor has given empty promises. Instead, the Indonesians have become disappointed and are now accusing Oceanor and Norway of doing an unfair deal with Indonesia. According to Setiawan, Norway and Oceanor are exploiting "our limited knowledge of [their] technology" to keep things secret and minimise project costs as compared to the contract budget in order to increase "company profit".

"Without a clear commitment by the Indonesian government to granting the necessary funds, the project should not be implemented."
Nordic Consulting Group, 1995

No funds
The Seawatch project in Indonesia is now in phase 2. This means the deployment of buoys and the training have been finished, and that the Indonesian government is financing the further work of the project. Indonesia's willingness and capability to carry on with the project was pointed out as a decisive factor for NORAD support by the Nordic Consulting Group in 1995. They write in their assessment of the application to NORAD:

"Without a clear commitment by the Indonesian government to granting the necessary funds, the project should not be implemented."

Project manager Setiawan, however, writes to NorWatch that he is working hard to try and find international funding so that "Norwegian/Oceanor's expensive and high technology still can be used.". Indonesia has in fact set aside only NOK 330,000 for this year's operations, though the project actually needs NOK 13.5 million. According to Setiawan, Oceanor and NORAD have reneged on promises to support phase 2 of the project.

The project manager says that the next generation of Indonesians will have to pay the NOK 108 million bill of money "wasted" during the three-year project with Oceanor.

Evaluating himself
Setiawan ends one of his messages in this way:

"Where is the responsibility of a developed country such as Norway in our serious and positive response to be a part of the world society who care about our marine environment?"

This month, NORAD has sent a team to Indonesia and Thailand to inspect and evaluate the Seawatch projects in the two countries. The team is led by Svein Ording of the Coast Directorate. This is the same man who recommended that NORAD support Seawatch-Indonesia.

The question is whether Ording is interested in making it known that he made a poor recommendation. So far, NORAD have supported Seawatch projects in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and India.

"Now the project is already finished but we cannot use Norway/Oceanor high technology, especially the buoy, because the most important spare part in the buoy i.e. the harddisk is broken (all). Oceanor promised us to send flash memory to replace the harddisk one year ago but it is only a promise until now."
Angus Setiawan, Seawatch project manager in Indonesia, March 17, 2000

Oceanor in Indonesia
In autumn 1995, Oceanor signed a contract with Indonesia to supply the Seawatch environmental monitoring system. Out of total project costs of NOK 93 million, Norway is funding the project with NOK 80 million through A/S Eksportfinans. The project received NOK 30 million in NORAD funding in the form of mixed credits, while Garantiinstiuttet for eksportfinans (GIEK) guaranteed the remaining 95% of the project costs.

Norwatch Newsletter 5/00

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