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Government Clarifies on the Arrest of MT Strovolos Crew in Indonesia Carrying Cambodian Oil

Phnom Penh: The Ministry of Mines and Energy has released a statement on Thursday clarifying the reasons behind the arrest of the MT Strovolos tanker crew carrying nearly 300,000 oil from Cambodia. It says that the ship crew have been arrested by the Indonesian authorities in respect of Cambodian criminal charges relating to the theft of the full cargo of crude oil on board that belongs to the Kingdom of Cambodia. The arrest was made following Interpol red notices by the Cambodian government.

The management of MT Strovolos issued a statement that on Friday, 24 September, their vessel was about to be released. However, on the next day, Marine police came onboard the ship to arrest all the crew showing the Interpol notice. It says, “All crew are very scared for life; mentally and physically tired due to prolong stay at ship. They keep reading all negative comments from Cambodia of maximum imprisonment with harsh punishment. Some crews are medically unfit, also they had visited hospital in Batam [Indonesia].”

The Cambodian Ministry says that the arrests in relation to the Cambodian criminal charges follow the completion of Indonesian proceedings against MT Strovolos and the crew for breaches of Indonesian law which resulted in the conviction of its captain for 15 days in a prison with a $7,000 fine. It has added that both are related to the vessel having the automatic identification tracking system deactivated and entered Indonesian waters without permission. It stresses, “The action is a result of the strengthening ties between ASEAN member states under the ASEAN treaties and the Indonesian Government is deeply thanked for its assistance".

The World Tankers owning MT Strovolos released a statement on Monday expressing a strong protest against the arrest of the vessel’s crew over a “protracted dispute concerning the tanker’s crude oil cargo". It says, “It is understood this police action followed by an intervention by the Cambodian government which claims the cargo was transported illegally. 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.”

In the statement released by Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, it has emphasised the value of human rights as it says, “At all stages, the Royal Government of Cambodia has respected, and will continue to respect, the human rights of the crew. However, always consistent with that, where criminal offences are committed, they should be legally prosecuted. Nothing is unethical about doing so. The Royal Government of Cambodia is seeking to bring to justice those charged with having committed serious criminal offences, now that the Indonesian proceedings have been completed. The right to a fair trial and due process is ensured for anyone extradited to Cambodia to face prosecution for breaches of Cambodian laws, as in this case.”

Cambodia’s statement is also in response to the strong statement of the World Tankers saying they have grave concern that there would not be due and proper process and a fair trial in Cambodia. It says, “This concern stems from the fact that the Prime Minister of Cambodia and his Ministers have made public statements saying the crew are guilty of theft, which is inappropriate and contrary to the basic principle of justice.”

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Mines and Energy says the MT Strovolos’ owners claim to caring about the welfare of their crew appears to be at odds with the fact that the crew have failed to respect the safety of life at sea as they had the vessel’s AIS deactivated during the various period and because the crew had the MT Strovolos leave Cambodian waters without permission with the crude oil belonging to Cambodia.

Meanwhile, the General Secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Tapan Sen, has sent a letter to India’s Minister of Shipping and Minister for External Affairs on Monday for urgent intervention about the issue to free the Indian nationals detained in Indonesia. Among the 19 crew of the MT Strovolos, 13 are Indian nationals.

Singapore-based World Tankers was contracted by the KrisEnergy Group to store the Cambodian oil. However, in June this year, the group has declared for bankruptcy. The MT Strovolos was reported on station in the Apsara Oil Field and acting as a floating storage offloading unit. On 19 June, the vessel allegedly took off without notice and with no relevant permits or approvals obtained from the competent authorities.

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