13 Indian sailors detained over oil theft row: Report

13 Indian sailors detained over oil theft row in Indonesia: Report

Under a threat of possible deportation to Cambodia, the Indian sailors have sought help from the Indian government for their release

Representative image. Credit: Reuters File Photo

After a year at sea, 13 Indian sailors onboard the Bahamas-flagged oil tanker, MT Strovolos, face the risk of deportation after being detained. The tanker was suspected of carrying stolen crude worth $21 million.

13 Indians were part of the 19-member crew of the MT Strovolos, media reports said. It was carrying nearly 300,000 barrels of crude from Cambodia's first oil venture and first seized by Indonesia's navy in July.

The tanker was chartered by KrisEnergy (Apsara) Co. Ltd. and received the oil from the Apsara Oil Field in the Gulf of Thailand.

The Cambodian government had contracted KrisEnergy as part of a commercial oil development project and gave it the right to sell the oil subject to payment of royalties.

However, the KrisEnergy Group ran into financial difficulties and was unable to comply with its obligations during the charter, including payment of the ship's fuel supply, World Tankers Management said. KrisEnergy and the tanker's management terminated the charter as a result, it said.

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Last week, a court sentenced the captain of the tanker, a Bangladesh national, to 15 days in jail and fined him 100 million rupiah ($7,000) after finding him guilty of anchoring the tanker in Indonesian territory without permission.

The operator of the seized tanker is protesting the detention of its crew, calling it a human rights violation.

Indian sailors onboard have said that they were only discharging their duties and had no role in the contract set between the shipowner, charterer, or the Cambodian government.

“They initially detained the vessel after the Cambodian government issued Interpol Red Notice on July 24... The ship’s captain has been arrested. We have not seen him for the last two months,” Bhanu Pratap Singh, a fitter in the vessel, told The New Indian Express.

Singh told the publication that KrisEnergy denied the crew food and water in Cambodian waters and said it went bankrupt. “As a result, we were asked to go to Thailand for a crew change. The crew change did not happen, and we were asked to go to the Indonesian Port. On the way to Indonesia, our vessel was intercepted by the Indonesian Navy on July 27,” he added.

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Under threat of possible deportation to Cambodia, the sailors have sought help from the Indian government for their release.

World Tankers Management spokesperson said that the Cambodian government has not provided any proof to the owners in regards to its claims. Meanwhile, KrisEnergy is not ready to give up the Cargo to Combodia as it would go against its ownership rights.

Manoj Yadav, Forward Seamen’s Union of India, sought the intervention of the Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways on September 26 to help in the release of the crew.

(With agency inputs)

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