By Erik Hagen
English translation published 11 May 2010.
Right after Easter this year a delegation from the Trondheim-based subsidiary of Norwegian arms exporter Kongsberg visited Casablanca. Kongsberg Seatex’s assignment was to show the Moroccan navy how the company’s technology for ocean surveillance functions, and the goal was to haul in a large contract.
But when the Kongsberg representatives pulled out a map of Morocco, the Moroccan officers reacted. The map followed UN maps and showed Morocco and Western Sahara as two separate countries.
“There is only one Morocco,” the officers said.
After that episode the company decided not to continue with the project.
“We could not be absolutely sure that the equipment would not be placed in Western Sahara, and therefore the decision was easy. We decided not to continue with our plans,” Even Aas, Kongsberg’s Executive Vice President, Public Affairs, told Norwatch.
The decision was made on 26 April this year, at the same time that the storm was raging around the case of the import of fish oil from Western Sahara to Norway. The decision was made only a few days before Norwatch got on the track of that case and got in touch with the company.
Kongsberg Group is Norway's biggest arms producing company, and majority owned by the Norwegian government.
Kongsberg’s Aas related that equipment was lent to the navy before Easter. Some of it had been installed on land in Casablanca, whereas some was on loan to ships in Moroccan waters. The equipment was to be used for so-called AIS (Automatic Identification System), a system with primarily two functions: first, to be able to identify ships out on the ocean and second, to avoid collisions among the ships themselves.
The official offer from Morocco had not yet been presented when Kongsberg chose not to continue with the project.
The decision to abstain from further collaboration was made when the Kongsberg representatives finally had returned home to Norway and gotten in touch with the group’s main office with regard to the episode with the navy officers.
Another case that Norwatch revealed last year, about Fugro-Geoteam’s seismic involvement off the coast of Western Sahara, has now been concluded. Last week it was announced that Fugro-Geoteam refrains from further assignments in the area. Fugro-Geoteam has written in a recent letter that it has “decided to abstain from any form of involvement in Western Sahara until the political situation in the country is resolved,” according the The Support Committee for Western Sahara