Indonesian fishermen implicate Australia in Montara oil spill

Djemi Amnifu The Jakarta Post 23 Aug 16;

Indonesian fishermen from East Nusa Tenggara kicked off their legal battle on Monday at an Australian court, demanding justice for an oil spill in the Montara oil field that has destroyed their livelihoods for the past seven years.

The head of Care for West Timor Foundation’s (YPTB) legal team, Ferdi Tanoni, who represents more than 13,000 fishermen in the class action lawsuit filed at the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney, said that other than Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) Australasia, the Australian government should also be held accountable for the accident.

“Australia can’t wash their hands of this case because some eyewitnesses saw an Australian aircraft flying low above the Timor Sea while spraying liquid on top of the oil spill,” he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

A fisherman, Muhammad Hatta, said he witnessed a red aircraft flying a week after the incident, during which the Montara oil rig, owned by oil and gas exploration firm PTTEP Australasia, exploded some 690 kilometers west of Darwin and 250 kilometers southeast of Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara.

“We were around Kolbano waters in Timor Tengah Selatan regency, East Nusa Tenggara. We saw the Australian airplane spray liquid on top of the oil spill in Kolbano waters,” he said.

Ferdi said the liquid was used to disperse the oil spill to the bottom of the ocean based on a laboratory analysis done by experts from Australia, the US and Indonesia.

The dispersant is highly toxic and thus could destroy the marine ecosystem, Ferdi said.

It was alleged that the aircraft, caught by satellite photos, was operated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

After the horrific explosion in 2009, gas and oil from the rig gushed into the Timor Sea for more than 70 days.

It is estimated that in excess of 300,000 liters of oil per day contaminated the sea, equivalent to pouring 10 Olympic swimming pools of toxic sludge into the ocean over the months the spill continued.

The oil spill has had a devastating effect on the livelihood of fishermen and coastal communities in East Nusa Tenggara, with fish catches and seaweed harvests continuing to decline in the heavily polluted waters.

Timor Sea Traditional Fishermen Alliance (Antralamor) chairman Mustafa said the fishermen in East Nusa Tenggara earned 70 percent less than what they got before the incident.

“Before the pollution, we could get Rp 20 million [US$1,510]; now it is Rp 5 million,” he said.

More than 13,000 seaweed farmers sued PTTEP for potentially more than A$200 million ($152 million) to cover damages.

Reuters reported that a Darwin-based lawyer, Greg Phelps, has pushed for compensation for Indonesian seaweed farmers whose livelihoods he believes were affected by the oil spill. Funding for the case will come from UK-based Harbour Litigation Funding.

No comments:

Post a Comment