Great Britain

Oil tanker operator protests Indonesia's detention of crew

The operator of an oil tanker seized by Indonesian authorities at the request of Cambodia is protesting the detention of its crew, calling it a human rights violation.

World Tankers Management, the Singapore-based operator of the MT Strovolos, said the crew members, who have been detained by Indonesian Marine Police for questioning since Friday, are innocent of any wrongdoing.

Indonesia’s navy seized the tanker in late July at the request of Cambodia, which said it was wanted on suspicion of stealing nearly 300,000 barrels of crude oil.

Harry Goldenhardt, a police spokesperson in Indonesia’s Riau Islands province, said Tuesday the crew is being questioned in relation to the Cambodian government's accusation. Police have seized the tanker and the crude oil as evidence, he said.

“It is understood this police action followed an intervention by the Cambodian government which claims the cargo was transported illegally," World Tankers Management said in a statement.

“This claim is made without foundation and is utterly rejected. The crew members remain under detention and are being interrogated ashore in shifts. The crew are the innocent victims of wrongful conduct by the government of Cambodia in violation of their human rights,” it said.

It said Cambodia had not provided any proof to support its claim that it owns the oil on board the vessel, and asked the Indonesian government to order the crew's immediate release.

Last week, a court sentenced the captain of the tanker, a Bangladesh national, to 15 days in jail and fined him 100 million rupiah ($7,000) after finding him guilty of anchoring the tanker in Indonesian territory without permission.

The tanker was chartered by KrisEnergy (Apsara) Co. Ltd. and received the oil from the Apsara Oil Field in the Gulf of Thailand. The Cambodian government had contracted KrisEnergy as part of a commercial oil development project and gave it the right to sell the oil subject to payment of royalties.

However, the KrisEnergy Group ran into financial difficulties and was unable to comply with its obligations during the charter, including payment of the ship's fuel supply, World Tankers Management said. KrisEnergy and the tanker's management terminated the charter as a result, it said.

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