World Tankers Management Strongly Denies Wrongdoing After Indonesia Seizes Tanker
The operator of the Bahamas-flagged products tanker MT Strovolos is denying ‘inaccurate’ reports that the vessel was illegally transporting Cambodian crude oil after the ship was detained for anchoring in Indonesian waters without permission. Rather, the Singapore-based operator says the tanker was in Indonesia only to conduct a ‘long-overdue’ crew change and is calling for the release all crew members.
The 44,106 dwt Strovolos and its crew were detained Tuesday by Indonesian authorities who allege the vessel had anchored in its waters off Batam without permission and at request of the Cambodian government, which is accusing the tanker of illegally loading 300,000 barrels of crude oil.
However, a statement from the ship’s operator, World Tankers Management, insists that the vessel was in Indonesia purely for humanitarian reasons and has been operating within the scope of its charter. According to the statement, the ship’s charterers loaded a cargo of crude oil at Cambodia’s Apsara field in the Gulf of Thailand back in May “on the understanding that the cargo belonged to the charters.”
After the charterers failed to pay, World Tankers Management says the Strovolos and its crew sailed to Thailand to refuel and, while there, they also tried to conduct a crew change, as many of the ship’s crew had remained on board since September. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the crew transfer was never conducted and the charter was eventually terminated, at which point World Tankers Management requested the removal of the cargo by ship-to-ship transfer “at a convenient and practical location.” The company said an agreement was never reached.
According to the World Tankers Management, when the vessel arrived in Thailand it was boarded by the Royal Thai Navy, supposedly at the request of the Cambodian government, but they never detained the vessel and allowed it to sail.
“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,” the company said in its statement.
“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 statement continues.
“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.”
World Tankers Management is now denying wrongdoing, including “wrongful allegations made by the Cambodian Government that the vessel and its crew had committed criminal offenses in relation to the vessel’s departure from the Apsara field to refuel.”
The company is now worried about the well-being of its seafarers, saying it has been made aware that the Cambodian government has allegedly requested to Interpol that the crew be extradited back to the country.
Media reports indicate that the Captain of the tanker, a Bangladesh national, has now been accused of anchoring in Indonesian territory without permission and could face up to one year in prison, plus fines, if found guilty.
“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,” World Tankers Management said in its statement.
“It is our express requirement that [the cargo] 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,” according to the company.
“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,” World Tankers Management said.
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