Norwegian wellboat rivals play high stakes in Chile

Aslak Berge

Fighting for power and money in the world’s second-largest freight market.

They are arch-rivals and have been fighting for the top of the wellboat industry throughout their professional careers. Odd Einar Sandøy and Roger Halsebakk grew up on two different windswept islands but in the same county of Møre og Romsdal, in Western Norway.

Now they operate the world’s two largest wellboat companies, Rostein and Sølvtrans, each in tough competition with each other.

Earlier this month, representatives of the two rivals met in court in Chile, relating to how much Sølvtrans owns in its subsidiary Sølvtrans Chile. For 48 per-cent of the shares, is the official ownership, according to Sølvtrans’s own home page.

This is “pure fiction” according to Chilean wellboat competitor Naviera Orca’s lawyer Enrique Alcalde. The Santiago-based lawyer believes Sølvtrans owns 99 per-cent of the subsidiary, citing the fact that there is no opportunity for foreign owners to control cabotage services in Chile.

According to Alcalde: “as part of this resolution, Solvtrans AS and Mr. Víctor Vargas Vega (its Chilean associate) must pay to Naviera Orca a total of USD 4,638,475, for the damages caused by their simulated actions”.

But who owns Naviera Orca?

Odd Einar Sandøy privately owns, not via Rostein, a great deal of the shares in the Chilean shipping company. Glen Bradley, Sandøy’s right-hand man and vice president of Rostein, confirmed this.

Private relationships
“First, I clarify that this is not a matter for Rofisk AS or Rostein AS, which is 100 per-cent owned by Odd Einar. By the way, it is, unprecedentedly, these companies that are the companies that he is fully engaged in and can answer for. But I have examined the facts that you request about Odd Einar’s private relationship. Odd Einar owns 22 per-cent in Naviera Orca and has a place on the company’s board,” Bradley wrote in an email to SalmonBusiness.

Naviera Orca’s wellboats, formerly owned by Rostein, are also still painted in Rostein’s easily recognizable strong blue colour.

Rosteins Glen Bradley, Odd Einar Sandøy and Jarle Gunnarstein.

Solvtrans boss Roger Halsebakk has not been particularly talkative in connection with the matter.

“We have nothing to add to this. There are several legal proceedings ongoing and no decision has been made,” he said.

Sandøy now owns 22 per-cent of Naviera Orca. Is this part of a chess game between you?

“I have no comment on that, what purpose they have with this,” Halsebakk told SalmonBusiness.

Roger Halsebakk, CEO of Sølvtrans. PHOTO: Aslak Berge.

New build
Decommissioned Norwegian wellboats are frequently shipped to Chile. The logic is not entirely different from the one seen in international ferry operations, where old North Sea ferries are sent to other parts of the world after service.

The freight contracts in Norway, with Norwegian fish farming companies, are covered by newly built and technologically more advanced vessels. At the world’s leading builder of wellboats, Aas Mek Verksted outside Molde, Western Norway, the order books are jam-packed. The yard will deliver seven new builds, with a contract value of around EUR 200 million, over the next two years.

“Orca Chono” is a former Rostein boat now owned by Naviera Orca. Photo: Naviera Orca

But Halsebakk and Sandøy are not the only Norwegians engaged in the wellboats industry in Chile. There is also a third major player. Also based in the area where both Halsebakk and Sandøy are from.

The shipping company Aquaship has a fleet of 12 wellboats, as well as a number of feed boats, harvest vessels and service boats. One of these wellboats is “Grip Patagonia”, which sails under contract in Chile. “Grip Patagonia”, built in 2001, was previously contracted to Grieg Seafood Finnmark, then under the name “Christine”.

SalmonBusiness has not succeeded in getting a comment on the matter, about how the Chilean business of the shipping company is organised, from Aquaship CEO Sverre Kristian Taknes.

“Grip Patagona,” formerly “Christina,” now sails for Aquaship in Chile. Photo: Krister Andree Bergstad

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