13 Indian sailors caught in Indonesia over oil row seek govt intervention

Express News Service

CHENNAI: 13 Indian sailors, including one from Tamil Nadu, onboard the Bahamian-flagged oil tanker, MT Strovolos, stare at an uncertain future and probable deportation to Cambodia. This, after the tanker, along with its crew, was detained by the Interpol in Indonesian waters.

The issue pertains to a row over payment for oil extracted from Apsara oilfield in the Gulf of Thailand between their chartering company KrisEnergy (Apsara) Co Ltd and the Cambodian government. After completing their tenure in the sea for a year now, the sailors are unsure about returning home as the Cambodian government has issued an Interpol Red Alert claiming oil theft by the crew.

The vessel is carrying 300,000 barrels of crude oil with ownership under dispute. The anxious sailors have sought intervention by the Indian government to set them free. The Indian crew says they are innocent and have no role in the commercial transactions, and the contractual terms are between the shipowner, charterer, or the Cambodian government. They were onboard the ship discharging their duties, and in the crossfire between the shipowner and other interested parties in the dispute, the crew allege they are being targeted as criminals.

Bhanu Pratap Singh, a fitter in the vessel, told TNIE the entire crew is wary now. “Initially, we were denied food and water provisions by KrisEnergy in Cambodian waters, which claimed to have gone bankrupt while we were loading oil in the container. 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 says.

“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,” explains Singh, a native of Uttar Pradesh. The Indian crew claims that Indonesian Maritime Police boarded the vessel last Friday and the seafarers were made to stand on the open deck for long hours and some were also taken out for interrogation.

TNIE’s bid to reach out to Second Officer Nicholas Agnel Fernando Sharan Fernando, who one of the crew members claimed was from Tamil Nadu, proved futile as he refused to talk. Singapore-based World Tankers Management Pte Ltd (WTM) manages the Bahamian-registered vessel, which had been hired by KrisEnergy Group to act as floating storage and offloading tanker in the Apsara oilfield. KrisEnergy filed for liquidation on June 4.

World Tankers, in a statement, protested the detention of crew and said the Cambodian government did not provide any proof that they own the cargo while KrisEnergy has objected to the cargo being handed over to Cambodia as it would be contrary to its ownership rights. Meanwhile, the Director General of Shipping and Ministry of External Affairs officials could not be contacted.

A few crew members The Indian sailors in the vessel include third engineer Hajare Nagnath Mohan, Bhore Rushikesh Ganpat, Ravada Srinivasa Rao, Dutta Subash Sharadaranjan, Ankit Kumar, Tandel Alokkumar Laxmanbhai, Bhanu Pratap, Arvind Singh, Mosa Ramakrushna, Tetavalkar Sarfraj Nijammuddiin, Pathan Mohsin Mohideen and Second Officer Nicholas Agnel Fernando