Cambodia Requests the Return of the MT Strovolos Oil Tanker Shipment now in Indonesia

The Ministry of Mines and Energy on Sep. 3 said that the 300,000 or so barrels of crude oil on board the oil tanker MT Strovolos seized by the Indonesian Navy off the coast of Sumatra on July 27 belong to Cambodia. Photo from Ministry of Mines and Energy.

The ship took away crude oil drilled in Cambodia’s waters due to business conflict between two companies, oil that Cambodia claims belong to the country and which Indonesia seized when the ship entered Indonesian waters

PHNOM PENH--The Ministry of Mines and Energy on Sep. 3 said that the 300,000 or so barrels of crude oil on board the oil tanker MT Strovolos seized by the Indonesian Navy off the coast of Sumatra on July 27 belong to Cambodia.

As for the MT Strovolos cargo ship alluding to payment conflict between the charterer and the ship, this is of no concern to the country, the ministry said in a statement.

“The cargo of crude oil on the MT Strovolos belongs to the Kingdom of Cambodia,” the ministry’s statement read. “The dispute regarding the payment of hire is between the vessel’s owners/managers and the charterer, and does not involve the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“The MT Strovolos illegally left Cambodian waters and took steps to evade detection once it had done so, eventually entering Indonesian waters where it has been detained,” the ministry explained. Criminal complaints have been filed against the tanker’s owners in Cambodian court and the country is seeking the assistance of the Indonesian authorities to resolve the issue, statement read.

This statement was issued following the company World Tankers Management (WTM), which manages the MT Strovolos, denying in a press statement on Aug. 25 that the ship had been illegally transporting crude oil from Cambodia. According to WTM, the shipment of crude oil was in compliance with the contractor and the ship had to leave Cambodia due to its crew changing and the need to refuel after the charterer, which is Singapore’s KrisEnergy, failed to pay.

The KrisEnergy Group had hired the MT Strovolos to serve as floating storage and offloading vessel (FSO) in the Apsara Block A, offshore Cambodia (Cambodia Block A) in Cambodia’s waters.

As part of an agreement with Cambodia overseen by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, KrisEnergy employed the ship for exploration and development in Cambodia Block A.

The ship’s activities were in accordance with the laws, the ministry’s statement read. “The vessel was moored and connected to the production barge INGENIUM 2 to receive crude oil from it, to perform its service as an FSO and permit offtake onto other vessels, subject to local laws and regulation.”

But the ship departing from Cambodian waters—allegedly due to a payment dispute—without the country’s authorization was illegal, the Cambodian ministry’s statement read.

In its press release, WTM said that, due to payment and contract dispute with KrisEnergy, the tanker had no choice but to sail out of Cambodian waters to the nearest port in Thailand for bunkering and to ensure the safety of its crew before continuing its journey.

That the ship had to go to Thailand for these matters is being disputed by the ministry. “At no time were the Ministry of Mines and Energy or the Cambodian authorities contacted by the vessel owners, the managers or any other party to arrange or permit any crew change or the bunkering of the vessels,” the ministry said in its release. “In any event, neither of these matters would excuse the removal of the vessel and cargo of crude oil from Cambodian waters in breach of Cambodian laws.”

The ship’s departure was confirmed in the ministry’s statement. “Whilst under charter to KrisEnergy, the vessel master was instructed by WTM in the evening of 18 June 2021 to depart Cambodia at 8 p.m. for Thai waters with the cargo of crude oil,” the statement read

The vessel went undetectable on June 19 at 12:23 a.m. because its automatic identification system (AIS) went offline. Its AIS returned online on June 20 at 10:48 p.m., which was nearly two days after the tanker had left Cambodian waters, and continued to be offline from time to time during the vessel's journey to Indonesia, the ministry’s statement read.

The Indonesian authorities on July 27 seized the tanker and detained 19 crew members—13 Indian, three Bangladesh and three Myanmar nationals—according to the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The ministry understands the WTM concern’s for the ship’s crew being detained and investigated in Indonesia, but legal action will have to be taken, these matters being neither “political or commercial matters,” the ministry’s press release read. “As the owner of the cargo of crude oil, the Royal Government of Cambodia has taken, and will continue to take, all necessary steps to recover the crude oil and ensure the due enforcement of the law.”

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