Singapore tanker operator tries to defuse Strovolos situation

Singapore-based operator World Tankers Management (WTM) has been trying to defuse what threatened to become an international legal dispute between the Cambodian government and owners/managers after a criminal complaint was filed against it in its role of manager of tankship Strovolos (IMO 9178056)

The tanker was moored and connected to a production barge next to oil platforms in the Apsara oil field Block A of Cambodia’s offshore reserves. The government has claimed that the vessel sailed out of Cambodian waters without obtaining customs clearance or permission from the authorities. Cambodia also asserts that it switched off its AIS for nearly two days until it had left Cambodian waters. It is now being held by Indonesian authorities who were questioning the captain and crew.

WTM said on August 25th it believed the cargo belonged to the charterers of the Strovolos. WTM claims that the charterers, a Singapore company that became insolvent, failed to pay for the hire of the vessels or supply it with fuel when levels were critically low. WTM said that the crew had no realistic choice but to sail the vessel to the nearest appropriate port to refuel for the safety of the crew, ship and the cargo.

WTM highlighted 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.

WTM said that they planned to “resort to diplomatic channels and the UN Human Rights Office” to free the crew.

On September 3rd the Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy claimed that “the disputes regarding the payment of hire are between the vessel’s owners/managers and the charterer and do not involve the Kingdom of Cambodia; MT Strovolos illegally left Cambodian waters and took steps to evade detection once it had done so, eventually entering Indonesian waters where it has been detained. Consequently, various breaches of Cambodian and Indonesian laws have been committed and are now the subject of investigation and legal process.”

The alternative view is that who has the right to seize the oil, valued at about $20m, could become an international legal dispute.

1999-built, Bahamas-flagged, 28,546 gt Strovolos is owned by Strovolos Shipping Co Ltd care of manager World Tankers Management Pte of Singapore. It is entered with London Club on behalf of Strovolos Shipping Co Ltd.