Cambodian Government Accused Of ‘Unethical’ Interrogation Of Oil Tanker Crew

The government of Cambodia has lately been accused of using unethical tactics to gain control of about 300,000 barrels of oil on board MT Strovolos. In July, the barrels of oil were seized by the Indonesian maritime authorities.

The freedom of 19 crew members is also at stake. The seamen were chartered by KrisEnergy, a Singapore-based firm, to support the production of oil from a field located in the Cambodian sector in the Gulf of Thailand.

The crew was deployed when production started in December 2020 at Phase 1A, a small-scale pilot project in the Apsara oil field, from which KrisEnergy knew would be able to retrieve approximately 7,500 barrels daily. It expected significant revenue for itself and the government of Cambodia.

silhouette of Tanker ship
Representation Image

The crude oil carried by MT Strovolos is priced at $21 million. On a Facebook post in December 2020, Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia said that the country has received a gift – the first oil production in the nation. But, the deal started falling apart drastically.

In 2014, KrisEnergy had been able to acquire its stake in the oil field from Chevron. This was after the US oil giant was incapable of reaching a revenue-sharing deal with the government of Cambodia.

However, the final output fell short of expectations. KrisEnergy holds a 95% stake, and the government of Cambodia the remaining 5%, filed for liquidation in June. This left the MT Strovolos and crew stranded at the sea.

They set sail but in July, were picked up off the Sumatra coast when Phnom Penh declared a red notice via Interpol, seeking vessel seizure and also alleging that Cambodia’s crude had been robbed.

World Tankers Management (WTM), the MT Strovolos operator, has denied the occurrence of any theft and said that the vessel was short of fuel and that it had gotten in touch with KrisEnergy to resolve the bunkering issues. However, that the company was unable to pay for the ship’s hire.

WTM has said at that moment, for the safety of the cargo, the crew, and the vessel itself – the MT Strovolos departed for the nearest port to undergo refuelling. After which it headed south to Indonesia to undergo a crew change.

It added that it has not received proof of ownership of the crude. It also mentioned that complete payment was needed before it can release the cargo. It added that the ongoing negotiations between KrisEnergy and Cambodia are perhaps not going too well.

On Friday morning, Indonesian Marine Police arrested the crew. To WTM, it is unacceptable because the crew members have exceeded the contractual period of employment. They have only performed their duties as seamen in bringing the ship to a safer place for refueling and anchoring off Batam for a crew change.

Indonesia’s navy confirmed that it was interrogating a crew comprising three Bangladeshis, 13 Indians, and three individuals from Myanmar. The vessel’s crew was accused of illegal anchoring in the country’s waters and switching off the AIS by them.

WTM denied allegations and Cambodia insists that the matter is now for the courts in Indonesia. This is cold comfort for the crew, who deserve compensation if WTM claims prove to be correct.

Reference: thediplomat.com

Background:

Owners Of Oil Tanker ‘Strovolos’ Protest Against Arrest Of The Vessel’s Crew

The owners and managers of STROVOLOS (IMO: 9178056), a Bahamas-flagged oil tanker, strongly protest against the arrest of the vessel’s crew.

This occurred when the Indonesian Marine Police boarded the vessel at 01:28 (local time) on Friday, 25 September., over a protracted dispute concerning the tanker’s crude oil cargo…Read the full article.

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