World Tankers Management Pte Ltd, the operators of MT Strovolos, on Wednesday (1 September) released a media statement clarifying an incident regarding recent events of the oil tanker:
World Tankers Management, operators of the MT Strovolos wish to strongly deny inaccurate media reports alleging the vessel and its crew were caught by the Indonesian Navy loading barrels of crude oil illegally without having permission to anchor in Indonesian waters. We also wish to highlight the impact on humanitarian issues of the approach taken by Cambodian and Indonesian authorities, where wrongful allegations made against the crew have resulted in refusals to enable a lawful crew change.
On 21 May 2021 the vessel’s charterers loaded a cargo of about 300,000 gross bbls of crude oil in the Apsara field in the Gulf of Thailand on the understanding that the cargo belonged to the charterers.
In addition to their failure to pay hire when it was due and owing, the charterers also failed with their obligation to supply fuel to the vessel when they had been informed that fuel levels were critically low.
The charterers’ default meant that we and the crew had no realistic choice but to sail the vessel to the nearest appropriate port, Map Ta Phut, Thailand, to refuel for the safety of the crew, ship and the cargo.
While the vessel was there, we tried to undertake a crew change as many of the crew had remained on board since September 2020 and they required to sign off and return home to their families.
In the meantime, the charter was terminated and the vessel was withdrawn from its chartered service.
Since then, we have requested that the owners of the cargo arrange to remove it from the vessel by ship-to-ship transfer at a convenient and practical location, but no agreement has been reached to enable this to occur.
Regrettably the vessel and the crew have been subject to unfair and unreasonable interference by and at the behest of the Cambodian Government and this has caused the crew immense distress and suffering.
Firstly, when the vessel arrived in Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy boarded the vessel, acting upon the request of the Cambodian Government.
Following the intervention of lawyers, the IMO and the Bahamas Maritime Authority, the Royal Thai Navy stepped back and allowed the vessel to sail to Batam, Indonesia, to make the crew change there as it was not permitted in Thailand due to Covid-19 restrictions.
We as owners stress that the reason for the vessel proceeding to Batam was for humanitarian purposes, to effect the long overdue crew change and allow the crew to return home to their families in accordance with their basic rights.
The Cambodian Government was made aware of the need to effect the crew change at Batam.
However, the owners have also been faced with difficulties affecting the necessary crew change in Indonesia. The vessel initially waited off Batam in view of the travel restrictions placed by Indonesia due to COVID-19. It is alleged by the Indonesian Navy that the vessel did not have permission to anchor in Indonesian waters.
We deny this but it seems that a key factor why the vessel was targeted was because of the wrongful allegations made by the Cambodian Government that the vessel and its crew had committed criminal offences in relation to the vessel’s departure from the Apsara field to refuel.
As such, as preparations for the crew change with the involvement of the IMO, the Bahamas Maritime Authority and the Indonesian Government were in progress, we have been informed that Cambodian authorities have made an application to Interpol and the Cambodian Government is allegedly requesting that the crew be extradited to Cambodia. We now fear for the wellbeing and health of our crew.
The vessel has been wrongly charged with stealing the cargo. It is not and has never at any time been our intention to misappropriate the cargo.
It is our express requirement that it is offloaded from the vessel by the party that owns it on terms that we are paid the sums owed to us or otherwise that such amounts are adequately secured in the usual way. The vessel has at all times operated entirely within the trading area agreed in the charter.
We regret to report that some members of the crew have been detained ashore by the Indonesian authorities and remain so detained whilst the remaining crew are stuck on board the vessel unable to disembark.
Our crew are entirely innocent and blameless in this matter and should not come to bear the brunt of commercial and political issues.
The human rights of our crew are paramount and all parties involved in this matter, including the Cambodian and Indonesian authorities, should recognise and respect this.
As a result of this situation, we now have no choice but to involve diplomatic channels and the UN Human Rights Office.
Photo credit: MarineTraffic / Chun-Hsi
Published: 2 September, 2021
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