Cambodia has filed a formal request with Indonesian authorities to return a Bahamian-flagged oil tanker and the nearly 300,000 barrels of crude from Cambodian reserves loaded in its cargo, its Bangladeshi captain and 18 other crew members to the Kingdom to face legal action over allegedly stealing the petroleum, according to a Ministry of Mines and Energy senior official on August 26.
The request comes on the heels after the Indonesian Navy on August 25 said it was holding the 183m-long MT Strovolos and its crew.
The tanker was anchored illegally off the coast of Anambas Island regency, Riau Islands province with its identification system turned off when it was seized on July 27, three days after Phnom Penh issued an Interpol red notice about the suspected heist, naval authorities said.
Cheap Sour, director general of the ministry’s General Department of Petroleum, told The Post that there were over 290,000 barrels of crude aboard the tanker, which had been rented by Singapore’s KrisEnergy Ltd for storage.
But no authorisation had been granted to transport domestic crude oil out of Cambodian territory, he noted.
“The oil was transported by a ship-owning company that Kris Energy hired to stockpile crude extracted from our Block A,” he said.
The offshore Cambodia Block A concession covers 4,709sq km of the Khmer Basin in the Gulf of Thailand and is approximately 150km off the Kingdom’s shores, with water depths ranging from 50-80m.
Sour went on to say: “The tanker was transporting the stored oil without the permission of KrisEnergy or our government … We are now working with the Indonesian authorities.”
The Indonesian Navy said it was interrogating the crew of 13 Indians, three Bangladeshis and a trio from Myanmar at its base on Indonesia’s Batam island, near Singapore. Naval authorities said the tanker was loaded with 297,686.518 barrels (nearly 47.33 million litres) of oil and en route to Batam, from Thailand.
First Fleet commander Arsyad Abdullah said in a statement: “The [Indonesian] Navy will not hesitate to take action against any sort of legal violation that occurs in the waters in Indonesian national jurisdictions.”
KrisEnergy extracted Cambodia’s first drops of oil, from Block A, on December 29.