The Cambodian government has been accused of using “nasty and unethical” tactics in an attempt to take control of 300,000 barrels of oil, currently aboard the MT Strovolos, which was seized in July by authorities Indonesian maritime.
Also at stake are the freedom of at least 19 crew members who piloted the vessel chartered by Singaporean company KrisEnergy to support a much-vaunted attempt to produce oil from a field in Cambodia’s Gulf of Thailand sector. .
They were deployed at the start of production in December last year to Phase 1A, a small-scale pilot in the Apsara oil field, from which KrisEnergy hoped to recover 7,500 barrels per day and provide a significant source of income. for themselves and the Cambodian government.
Crude oil aboard the MT Strovolos was valued at $ 21 million.
“The year 2021 is approaching… and we have received a huge gift for our nation – the first production of oil in our territory,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a Facebook post in December.
But since then that deal has collapsed dramatically.
KrisEnergy acquired its stake in the Chevron oil field in 2014 after the US oil giant failed to secure a revenue-sharing deal with the Cambodian government.
However, production was well below expectations and KrisEnergy, which held a 95% stake with the Cambodian government holding the remaining 5%, filed for liquidation in June, leaving the Bahamian-flagged MT Strovolos and its crew mostly stranded at sea.
They set sail but were recovered in July off the coast of Sumatra after Phnom Penh issued a red notice via Interpol, requesting the seizure of the vessel, alleging that the kingdom’s crude had been stolen.
World Tankers Management (WTM), operator of the MT Strovolos, vigorously denied any theft and said the vessel was running low on fuel and contacted KrisEnergy to resolve its bunkering issues, but was told the company could not not pay the rental of the ship.
At this point, says WTM – for the safety of the crew, cargo and ship – the MT Strovolos headed for the nearest port to refuel, then headed south to in Batam in Indonesia for a crew change.
He also states that he has not received proper proof of ownership of the crude and that proper payment is required before he can hand over the cargo to a party. He also added that the negotiations between Cambodia and KrisEnergy, which theoretically owns 95% of the oil, “might not go well.”
Then, in the early hours of last Friday morning, Indonesian Maritime Police boarded the ship and arrested its crew. According to Singapore-based WTM, they were “questioned ashore in teams”.
WTM said it feared Cambodia would use its diplomatic contacts in Indonesia to pressure the crew after asking Jakarta for help in shutting down the tanker for theft of oil.
“World Tankers believes the government of Cambodia has failed to resolve the issues with KrisEnergy and is now adopting the nasty and unethical tactics of trying to use [Indonesian government contacts] compel owners to accept their claims without proof or payment.
“It is totally unacceptable,” he said. “The crew are well over their contractual term of employment and have the right to be repatriated to their families. All they did was fulfill their duties as sailors by bringing the ship, first to a safe place to refuel, then anchor off Batam to await the change of crew.
The Indonesian Navy has confirmed that it is interviewing a crew of 13 Indians, three Bangladeshis and three from Myanmar, and accused the ship’s crew of illegally anchoring in its waters and disabling its AIS identification system.
WTM has also denied the allegations while Cambodia insists the matter is now in Indonesian courts and is not political or commercial. This is a cold comfort for the crew, who deserve to be compensated if WTM’s statements prove to be correct.
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