Monday, 28 November 2011

Trafigura: Greenpeace Criticism – Thoughts


A week ago I reported  that Greenpeace had been accused of exercising undue influence on the Trafigura – Probo Koala affair.  I struggle with time to write and so I can’t comment in detail on the criticism and so I make a few points only.

The critical articles and book (henceforth ‘articles’) were well-timed, I imagine, to coincide with the start of Trafigura’s appeal against the guilty verdicts found at a 2010 trial in Amsterdam.  I cannot know if, and I do not claim that, the release of the articles was coordinated but in a world where PR is incredibly important I would not be surprised to find that their release was timed, if not coordinated, to coincide with the appeal.  Many books and articles are timed for maximum impact.


There is no doubt that, through Carter-Ruck and Bell-Pottinger, Trafigura has managed the flow of information about the Probo Koala incident with the selective release of documents and comment.  I know from my own experience with them that most of my requests for documents and comments were ignored. 

Trafigura will assert, I am sure, that they did so to protect their good name from being unjustifiably sullied.  Others may have a more negative view but, with a restricted amount of information in the public domain, getting to the truth  - so that one can publish safely – is very difficult. 

In these circumstances one should not be surprised that media organisations in the UK, Netherlands and Norway came together with Greenpeace to pool their knowledge.  This was a very sensible decision.  In a global market multinational cooperation is necessary.


I give just one example where the restricted amount of information makes life difficult.

Trafigura’s internal emails show that they knew in December 2005 that the waste from caustic washing of coker naphtha was toxic, expensive to treat and they could not find a shore-based facility to carry out the process. In December 2005 a treatment cost of $250,000 per tonne was the going rate but in June 2006 in Amsterdam such was the Trafigura’s description of the waste that they were quoted $36 per tonne. For more information about the costs of treatment see an earlier post.

Trafigura has not answered questions raised by these emails.

I know because I asked Trafigura.


Dr Busch, a regular commenter here and occasional writer on Trafigura, refuses to answer questions about the effect of Trafigura’s knowledge on their subsequent actions on the basis that he cannot know the truth and that he deals in facts and not opinions. He may deal in some facts but he ignores those which are inconvenient to him and the case he makes.

I know because I asked Dr Busch.


Now why would Trafigura not answer questions on this subject?  Is it not in their interests to give a simple explanation and have the question disappear?


By not answering Trafigura then beg another question.  Why do they not answer?

I wrote earlier,

“with a restricted amount of information in the public domain, getting to the truth - so that one can publish safely – is very difficult.”

I can have my own thoughts – that’s all I can have - about how to reconcile these two apparently irreconcilable facts but I cannot publish them in case Carter-Ruck come calling.

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