The owners and managers of a tanker that left Cambodian waters containing around 300,000 barrels of oil say the crew are being held “in violation of their human rights”.
World Tankers Management says the crew were arrested on Sept 25, when the Indonesian Marine Police boarded the Strovolos. It says crew members are being taken ashore and interrogated in shifts.
“It is understood this police action followed an intervention by the Cambodian government which claims the cargo was transported illegally. This claim is made without foundation and is utterly rejected,” said a statement released by World Tankers.
“The crew are the innocent victims of wrongful conduct by the government of Cambodia in violations of their human rights,” it said.
The tanker was moored next to oil platforms in the Kingdom’s Apsara oil field. The government says it sailed out of Cambodian waters without obtaining customs clearance or permission from the authorities and switched off its automatic identification system for nearly two days until it had left Cambodian waters.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy issued a statement at the start of this month saying the Cambodian government was not involved in disputes over the hiring of the vessel and crew but wanted to get back the oil, worth around $22.5 million at current prices.
“MT Strovolos illegally left Cambodian waters and took steps to evade detection once it had done so, eventually entering Indonesian waters where it has been detained. Consequently, various breaches of Cambodian and Indonesian laws have been committed and are now the subject of investigation and legal process,” the statement said.
Singapore-headquartered oil explorer KrisEnergy said on June 4 it was unable to pay its debts and abandoned the Apsara project. It owned 95 percent of the venture. The remainder belonged to the Cambodian government, which was expecting around $500 million in taxes and royalties over the project’s lifetime.
World Tankers said it understands that KrisEnergy had been given the rights to sell the oil on the condition that it paid royalties to the Cambodian government.
“The government of Cambodia has not provided any proof to the owners to support its claim that it owns the cargo on board the vessel. KrisEnergy told the owners that they objected to the cargo being released to the government of Cambodia as that would be contrary to their ownership rights,” said the World Tankers statement.
“The owners believe that there have been ongoing talks between the government of Cambodia, KrisEnergy and KrisEnergy’s receivers to come to an agreement about the sale of the oil on board the vessel and the payments duly claimed by the owners,” the statement said.
World Tankers said it had “grave concern” that the crew would not receive a fair trial in Cambodia because the government made public statements “saying the crew are guilty of theft, which is inappropriate and contrary to the basic principle of justice”.
World Tankers called on the Indonesian government to release the crew immediately. Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy did not respond to requests for comment on the claims and an update on the case.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.