The tens of millions of dollars in crude oil aboard the MT Strovolos that was illegally removed from Cambodian waters in mid-June – and seized by the Indonesian Navy a month later – belongs to Cambodia, and any dispute over contracts d he charter involving oil, the tanker and the charterer is not the Kingdom’s business, the Ministry of Mines and Energy said on September 3.
The ministry said in a statement: “MT Strovolos illegally left Cambodian waters and took steps to evade detection once he did, eventually entering Indonesian waters where he was being held.” .
“As a result, various breaches of Cambodian and Indonesian laws have been committed. [which] are now under investigation and legal proceedings.
He noted that the British company World Tankers (UK) Ltd owned by the Singaporean company World Tankers Management Pte Ltd (WTM) manages the Bahamian-flagged vessel, which had been hired by KrisEnergy Group to serve as a floating storage and cargo vessel. unloading (FSO) in the Apsara oil field.
The oil field is located on Cambodia’s Block A offshore concession, which covers 4,709 km² of the Khmer basin and is approximately 150 km from the Kingdom’s coast, with water depths ranging from 50 to 80 m.
KrisEnergy bought a majority stake in the Block A concession from US oil giant Chevron in 2014 for $ 65 million and in 2017 entered into an oil exploration and development deal with the Royal Government of Cambodia.
KrisEnergy Group owns a 95 percent stake in Block A, with the General Directorate of State Assets and Non-Tax Revenues of the Ministry of Economy and Finance holding the remaining five percent.
Although KrisEnergy Ltd filed for liquidation on June 4, confirming that it was unable to pay its debts, the company pointed out that all operations of its subsidiaries in Cambodia – KrisEnergy (Cambodia) Ltd and KrisEnergy (Apsara) Co Ltd, would continue as normal.
The Department of Energy went on to say: “The vessel was moored and connected to the Ingenium II production barge to receive crude oil from it, to perform its service as FSO and to allow sampling from other sources. [vessels], subject to local laws and regulations ”.
He said he understands that there are ongoing claims between the owners and managers of the tanker and KrisEnergy regarding, among other things, the lease payments for the vessel. “If this is the situation, then it is a matter between them and has nothing to do with the [government or] its crude oil, ”he said.
“While chartered by KrisEnergy, the ship’s captain was instructed by WTM on the evening of [June 18] to leave Cambodia at 8 pm for Thai waters with the cargo of crude oil, ”the ministry added.
She pointed out that MT Strovolos had left Cambodian waters without having obtained the required customs clearance or authorization from the authorities.
The tanker’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) first went offline at 12:23 p.m. on June 19 and came back online almost two days later at 10:48 p.m. on June 20, after leaving Cambodian waters, a the ministry said, adding that the AIS was repeatedly turned off and on during the ship’s subsequent voyage in Indonesian waters.
The ministry stressed that it “rejects WTM’s assertion in its statement to the media that the ship had no realistic choice but to leave Cambodian waters for crew change and refueling.”
“At no time were the Ministry of Mines and Energy or the Cambodian authorities contacted by the shipowners, managers or any other party to organize or authorize a change of crew or the refueling of the vessel.
“In any event, none of these issues would excuse the removal of the vessel and crude oil cargo from Cambodian waters in violation of Cambodian laws.
“Since her illegal departure, the vessel has made no attempt to return to Cambodian waters and has taken no action to return the cargo of crude oil. This despite the fact that ship owners, managers and captains of advertising are fully aware that crude oil belongs to the Kingdom of Cambodia, ”he added.
The Indonesian Navy said on August 25 it was detaining the tanker, its Bangladeshi captain and 18 other crew members.
The tanker was illegally anchored off the coast of the regency of Anambas Island in the Riau Islands province with its AIS disabled when it was seized on July 27, three days after Phnom Penh issued a red notice Interpol regarding the alleged theft, naval authorities said.
The Indonesian Navy said it was interviewing the crew of 13 Indians, three Bangladeshis and a trio from Myanmar at its base on the Indonesian island of Batam, near Singapore. Naval officials said the tanker was loaded with 297,686.518 barrels (nearly 47.33 million liters) of oil and en route to Batam from Thailand.
Indonesian media report that the captain violated article 317 in conjunction with article 193 paragraph 1 of Law No. 17/2008 on navigation, for which the maximum prison term is one year and a fine maximum of 200 million rupees ($ 14,000).
First Fleet Commander Arsyad Abdullah said in a statement: “The [Indonesian] The Navy will not hesitate to take action against any kind of legal violation that occurs in the waters of Indonesian national jurisdictions. “
In Cambodia, the energy ministry said, criminal complaints for various offenses have been filed against owners, managers, captain, senior officers and their alleged accomplices of MT Strovolos.
“These complaints are being dealt with by the competent Cambodian courts,” he said, adding that the government “has requested the assistance of the Indonesian government to bring the perpetrators and their accomplices to justice and to obtain the return of the oil cargo. gross. to the Kingdom of Cambodia, in accordance with international laws and the national laws of the two respective countries ”.
He expressed his gratitude to the Indonesian government for its cooperation in this matter, stressing that the matter “will have to take its legal course and that it is neither political nor commercial questions”.
As the rightful owner of the oil, the government “has taken and will continue to take all necessary measures to recover the crude oil and ensure proper enforcement,” the ministry added.
KrisEnergy extracted the first drops of oil from Cambodia, Block A, on December 29.
With global benchmark crude oil prices currently hovering around $ 70 a barrel, the value of oil aboard the MT Strovolos is nearly $ 21 million, or the equivalent of more than four percent of the $ 500 million. dollars that the government estimated it would earn from royalties and taxes in the first phase of the project.