17 March 2014, News Wires – Aker Solutions is reportedly refusing to provide further services or spare parts for equipment supplied to a newbuild drillship that is lined up for work off the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
The Norwegian contractor has supplied the drilling riser system for the ultra-deepwater drillship Atwood Achiever currently under construction for Atwood Oceanics at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering under an earlier contract reported to be worth Nkr300 million ($50.5 million).
However, it has since emerged that US explorer Kosmos Energy, which has chartered the vessel, intends to use the unit for a controversial drilling effort in the Cap Boujdour block off Western Sahara, due to kick off after delivery of the newbuild in the third quarter.
Kosmos’ exploration effort has been licensed by Morocco, which claims the North African territory as its own despite a rival claim to the former Spanish enclave by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) that is also recognised as a sovereign state by the African Union.
Norway’s government has warned domestic companies against making investments or carrying out transactions in Western Sahara that could give legitimacy to Morocco’s claim, pending a resolution of the territorial dispute, and has stated such deals would be “in conflict with human rights”.
Major contractor Aker Solutions, backed by industrial magnate Kjell Inge Rokke and partly owned by the Norwegian state, is now backpedalling over its involvement in the drillship deal, saying it would not have signed it had it been aware of the drillship’s area of operations.
The Oslo-listed company has now stated that it will not provide any form of service or spare parts for the drillship as long it is operating off Western Sahara, Norwegian state TV channel NRK reported.
“We often sign agreements on services or spare parts for equipment that we have already supplied, but we reserve the right in such agreements not to supply equipment if the rig is to be used in areas where we will not carry out business, such as Western Sahara,” a spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
However, she denied the contractor was aware the vessel could be used off the territory when it signed its original contract for the risers, having also been awarded earlier deals to deliver such equipment to three other Atwood newbuilds.
“When we signed the agreement, we did not have information on whether the drillship would be used. Had we known the equipment would be used in Western Sahara, we would not have entered into the agreement as it is against our internal guidelines,” she added.