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Roger Halsebakk, CEO and partner of Solvtrans AS. Photo: Erich Guerrero
Roger Halsebakk, CEO and partner of Solvtrans AS. Photo: Erich Guerrero

Wellboat giant Solvtrans has won the support of Chile’s biggest trades union group, the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), in a long-running commercial feud with rival Naviera Orca.

Solvtrans, which has its core markets in Norway and Scotland, has been accused by Naviera Orca of paying lip-service to a law that Chilean shipping businesses must be majority-owned by Chilean nationals. In 2015, Solvtrans sold 51 per cent of Solvtrans Chile SA to its general manager, Victor Vargas, for around £100,000 – a sum Naviera Orca claims massively undervalues the company, which has vessels valued at millions of dollars.

General manager Victor Vargas bought 51 per cent of Solvtrans Chile SA. Photo: Erich Guerrero
General manager Victor Vargas bought 51 per cent of Solvtrans Chile SA. Photo: Erich Guerrero

Naviera Orca has allied with south Chile shipping and ports association Armasur to put pressure on authorities to sanction Solvtrans.

But CUT has joined the argument by issuing an international denunciation of Naviera Orca for threatening the jobs of its members and claiming the company is also a subsidiary of a Norwegian wellboat, in this case Rostein AS.

'Public knowledge'

In the letter of denunciation, addressed among others to Odd Einar Sandoy, managing director and major shareholder of Rostein’s parent company, Rofisk SA, CUT’s Puerto Montt provincial president, Jose Pacheco Sanchez, writes: “Employees of Solvtrans Chile SA have approached me with concern and fear because of your actions in Chile you are putting in risk the working place of approximately 50 people directly, 50 people indirectly (services and other related) and many more sources of work to be created in the future.

“It is public knowledge that you as Rostein also have investments in Chile, basically in Puerto Montt, through you subsidiary shipping company in Chile; Naviera Orca Chile SA, which today has three boats, all imported from Norway, but in total Rostein has sent four vessels to Chile in the last 13 years.”

'No interest in Chilean companies'

Sanchez continues: “I am aware that Solvtrans AS operates in Chile in partnership with Solvtrans Chile, just as you with Rostein and Naviera Orca are partner[s] here in Chile.”

The whole letter can be read here.

After CUT published its letter, Rostein AS vice president Glen Bradley insisted that Rostein AS “has no interest in Chilean companies or any vessel operating in that country”.

He added: "Rostein AS, is 100 per cent owned by Rofisk AS, which in turn is

Glen Bradley. Vice-President of Rostein AS. Photo: Rostein
Glen Bradley. Vice-President of Rostein AS. Photo: Rostein

100 per cent owned by Odd Einar Sandøy. In turn, Odd Einar Sandøy has a private participation in the aforementioned Chilean shipping company (Naviera Orca SA). The other partners own about three-quarters of this company. Sandøy is also the CEO of Rostein AS and is on the board of the Chilean company, only in a personal capacity. He is not active in running that company. In any case, this is a private situation, outside the control of Rostein."

Referring to Naviera Orca’s efforts to have Solvtrans sanctioned, Roger Halsebakk, CEO and co-owner of Solvtrans, said: "Our company was established in Chile in 2005. The conflict began two and a half years ago, and this is not about competition, this is a vile action ...”

He added that the company was now seeking to take legal action of its own.