Monday, 28 June 2010

Trafigura: Detailed Reports Released through Dutch Courts

UPDATE @ 07.20 29 June  I should have mentioned that I emailed both Trafigura and Karel Knip asking for copies of the 3 reports referred to in the article but, as yet, I have not received a reply from either.  I’ll keep you posted on progress or lack thereof.


On Saturday I received an email from Dr Gary K Busch and I make no apology for displaying that message here.

“Well, here's the final proof from Holland. In today's Science Section of the Handelsblad is a long and detailed piece on why the wastes from the Probo Koala were harmless.The piece by Karel Knip, examines the detailed expert testimony presented to the court in the UK trial and says that there were no poisonous effects of the waste or its dumping.

I recommend that you read the article yourself (if you can manage Dutch). I append it. It shows, without any doubt, that Greenpeace and their acolytes lied and exaggerated about the Probo Koala. They made this whole thing all up and the eco-hysterics joined in with their own fantasies. One should never rely on uneducated cranks for scientific judgements.  Despite this they tried to get the DACA to support their lies and failed. Now they are bringing suit in the Dutch courts which they will lose, I only hope the judges assess costs in this matter in such a high amount that the liars and cheats of Greenpeace are deterred from further false testimony.

Perhaps, even now, you will see the folly in seeking to balance fiction with fact, allegation with judgment and righteous indignation with competence. The eco-warriors really are a bunch of despicable clowns.”

Despite Dr Busch’s exaggerated  - I believe - claims the article by Karel Knip is well worth reading.  Karel Knip is in an elite group of journalists – an elite group of one as far as I can see.  Trafigura link to one of his articles in the News section of their website.

Dr Busch kindly supplied an English translation which I have posted online here

The original Dutch article is also online

[Copyright resides with]

The more evidence that is released the more it appears that the wastes, whilst extremely smelly, were not as dangerous as was thought at the time and as has been repeated many times since.  The continued over-reliance on the apparent terrible damage done in Abidjan does little to help those who seek the truth – and I put myself in this group.

At the time the papers in the BBC libel case were made public I said this,

“I imagine that there will still be controversy over the validity of Trafigura’s claims about the relative harmlessness of the waste but the focus, I think, will be on their knowledge and intent before the dumping of the waste and on the sweetening of the PMI coker naphtha in Norway and, possibly, elsewhere."

Unfortunately the focus has not been on Trafigura’s knowledge and intent.  I hope to write a piece on this particular subject but recently I have found it difficult to get the mind time to write posts such as this.

My impression is that Trafigura and its supporters are taking the following line:   By all means had the waste been very dangerous then there would have been reason to go after Trafigura but the waste was not dangerous and so why pillory the company?  The only reason now to attack Trafigura is to assuage political pressure.

I may be wrong on this but I suspect not.

My answer to this approach is that there is nothing wrong at all in political pressure being used to make governments or agencies act as they should by law.  The opposite though is clearly wrong: the use of political pressure to make governments or agencies act against the law.

In the current trial of Trafigura and others in Amsterdam it seems to me that there is certainly a case for Trafigura to answer – regardless of the ultimate outcome – and that the degree of risk to Abidjanis, whilst crucial to them, is irrelevant to this trial. 

Key though is the question, “Did the Probo Koala waste fall within the guidelines for the export of hazardous waste?”

Intuitively, this cannot be too difficult a question to answer but I guess the involvement of lawyers could make this subject intractable!

If the answer to this question is “Yes” then Trafigura must answer the following,

Did Trafigura mislead the authorities in Amsterdam about the chemical makeup and risks associated with the handling of their waste?


did they not describe the waste adequately for appropriate decisions to be made? 


were they incompetent?


did they act entirely competently and openly throughout?

Somehow I doubt we’ll get suitable answers to any of these questions.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting my comments and the article.You are correct in your analysis of the position and you raise the correct line of enquiry for the Dutch courts.

    There are some points which might be considered. First, these wastes which were supposed to be dealt with by Amsterdam Port Services (APS) were not wastes covered by the European or Basel export decrees; they were covered by the Marine Pollution rules (MARPOL) and specifically excluded from Basel or the European rules.

    Secondly, these wastes were purportedly tested in a chemical laboratory by APS (in a magically accelerated procedure) and found to be dangerous. Half the wastes had already been discharged. This procedure was stopped and the wastes reloaded on the Probo Koala. Before they could be reloaded the APS produced another chemical analysis required by the Dutch authorities before they could be reloaded and reshipped. This equally magical examination showed that they were allowed to be shipped under Dutch and European law and the Dutch government gave its authority for the reloading.

    So, it wasn't the fault of the Dutch authorities requesting these analyses but the misleading analyses which were presented. The fact that there was a municipal election taking place in Amsterdam and that the Greens had made this a political campaign issue did not add to the clarity of Dutch examinations; just as starting the current trial of Trafigura and others just before the current national elections.

    This must all be quite confusing to observers who haven't looked in detail of the facts of the case.

    Much of the fault lies with Trafigura itself for not making this information available to the general public on a contemporary basis so that wild claims could be considered dispassionately by the wider public.

    To some degree this is the normal reaction of a multinational corporation who knows that any public attention will not be good news. However, in the early months of the furor the company had its Chief Executive locked in jail in a dangerous Abidjan prison and concerns for his welfare took a higher priority than public relations.

    Once Trafigura had paid the ransom money to the Ivory Coast it was better able to comment on the issues in the public, but it was mostly too late.

    So, you are right,. It is always useful and necessary to monitor the actions of those whom we elect or appoint to look after our welfare. Raising these issues and insisting on a transparent response will allow all of us to apply our judgements as to the interpretation of the facts.