The Indonesian government is to launch domestic and international legal action against Thailand’s PTTEP over to the 2009 Montara oil spill offshore Australia.
The court actions relate to the environmental impact and economic losses suffered by communities around Kupang in Indonesian territorial waters.
“My job is to defend the interests of the Indonesian people. Just look at destruction of seaweed, which is the people’s livelihood. It must be protected,” Co-ordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said.
The domestic lawsuit against the Thai state-owned national exploration company will be led by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, local daily Tempo reported.
Meanwhile, the international lawsuit will be under the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
“We are serious about handling this and will fight with all our efforts,” Luhut added.
“Our position is firm, and we don’t want to compromise on this. PTTEP made a mistake, so they have to pay compensation to the community,” he said.
Last year, an Australian court ruled in favour of Indonesian seaweed farmers that had their livelihoods affected by the oil spill. However, PTTEP has appealed this ruling that could see it ultimately have to pay compensation totalling more than $260 million. The appeal hearing is expected in June.
In 2012, PTTEP Australasia pleaded guilty in the Darwin Magistrates Court to four charges relating to the Montara oil spill.
“From the outset we have admitted responsibility for the incident and deeply regret it occurring. Mistakes were made that should never be repeated,” then-PTTEP Australasia chief executive Ken Fitzpatrick said at the time.
However, although the company has admitted negligence in its operations at Montara, it maintains no oil ever reached islands’ coastlines.
“No oil reached shore. The closest that oil came to making landfall was recorded at 35 kilometres from the Australian coastline and 94 kilometres from Indonesia coastline (West Timor),” PTTEP’s 2017 Montara Lessons Learned report states.
PTTEP said that even if the crude had reached the Indonesian coastline — about 30,000 barrels were spilled — it would have effectively disintegrated and therefore not have been at a concentration that was toxic to seaweed.
The Thai company had not responded to the opportunity for fresh comment at the time of publication.
The producing Montara oilfield is now operated by independent Jadestone Energy.