Indonesia detains tanker crew in international oil cargo dispute – Eurasia Review
By Ronna Nirmala
Indonesia, Cambodia and a Bahamian-flagged tanker are fighting over nearly 300,000 barrels of crude oil that Phnom Penh says was stolen by the ship’s crew.
Last week, an Indonesian court sentenced the captain of the MT Strovolos to 15 days in prison for anchoring his ship in local waters without permission. Days later, Jakarta arrested the remaining 19 crew members of the tanker for questioning on Batam Island, in response to an Interpol Red Notice issued by Cambodia.
Harry Goldenhardt, spokesman for the Riau Islands Provincial Police, said a team from the National Central Bureau-Interpol had been questioning crew members of the tanker since Saturday.
“It is based on the Cambodian government’s Red Notice and a letter sent by the Phnom Penh court asking for assistance in the arrest and return of the ship and its crew,” Harry told BenarNews.
On Monday, the Singapore-based company that owns the ship said Cambodia’s claim that the oil cargo was transported illegally was “unfounded,” and urged Indonesia to reject Phnom’s request for assistance. Penh.
On September 22, when the Batam District Court convicted Sazzedeen SM, the Bangladeshi captain of the Strovolos, it also fined him 100 million rupees (US $ 7,000), according to a court document of the ruling obtained by BenarNews.
“The accused Sazzedeen SM has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing a criminal act,” the document said, adding that Sazzedeen must serve an additional month in prison if he does not pay the fine.
“The defendant did not follow the procedures for navigation in Indonesian territorial waters and potentially endangered traffic in the waters,” the court said.
The Indonesian Navy said the 600-foot Strovolos was illegally anchored off Sumatra, with its identification system disabled, when authorities seized it on July 27, three days after Phnom Penh issued the Red Notice regarding the alleged theft of cargo.
An Indonesian warship, the KRI John Lie-358, intercepted the tanker near the Anambas Islands, a chain in the Riau Islands province, after the Strovolos sailed in Indonesian waters of the South China Sea without permission , added the navy.
“Cambodia has provided no evidence”
Meanwhile, Cambodia has demanded that the oil be returned, but Indonesia’s navy said it would be up to the courts to decide what to do with the cargo.
âLegal proceedings are under the authority of the prosecutor’s office and the court,â Naval Fleet Command I spokesman Lt. Col. Laode Muhammad said.
Batam chief prosecutor Polin Octavianus Sitanggang could not be reached for comment.
World Tankers, owner of the Strovolos, said the Cambodian government had contracted with the company that chartered the vessel, KrisEnergy Group.
“The owners of the vessel understood that the charter company had been engaged by the Cambodian government as part of a commercial oil development projection and gave it the right to sell the oil on payment of royalties,” said World Tankers in a statement released Monday.
“The Cambodian government has not provided any evidence to the owners to support its claim that it owns the cargo on board the vessel.”
World Tankers further declared that the crew of the Strovolos were “the innocent victims of reprehensible behavior by the Cambodian government in violation of their human rights”.
The tanker, built in 1999, was chartered by oil exploration company KrisEnergy (Apsara) Co. Ltd, which began producing oil from Cambodia’s first oil field in December 2020.
During the charter, the KrisEnergy group encountered financial problems and filed for liquidation in June, but could not pay the tanker’s crew.
The owners and crew wanted the cargo to be unloaded by mutual agreement and, in the meantime, moved the vessel off Batam, awaiting a crew change.
“There has never been any intention or suggestion that anything be done with the oil on board other than to unload it as soon as its ownership is proven and an agreement is reached on payment to the owners of the vessel. money owed to them, “says World Tankers.
The owners fear that there will not be a fair trial in Cambodia and that official claims that the crew stole the cargo are “inappropriate and contrary to basic principles of justice,” the company said.
“Indonesia does not need to intervene”
Siswanto Rusdi, an observer at the National Maritime Institute (Namarin), an independent think tank, said Indonesian authorities should release the tanker’s crew.
“The red notice is from Cambodia, which means you have to come back [the cargo] in Cambodia, âhe told BenarNews.
“Even if there is a dispute behind this, Indonesia does not need to intervene.”
Indonesia has nothing to do with the tanker once the lawsuit against the violation of navigation rules has been resolved, Siswanto said.
“Now what is the basis for detention?” What business do we have? If it is not careful, Indonesia could go to trial, âhe said.
âCurrent international law does not favor seafarers. In any dispute, no matter how small, it is the crew members who are arrested, when in fact, they are only part of the process of moving goods, but may not necessarily know the agreement that Underpins it, âSiswanto said.