Timor Sea Oil Spill Investigation Still In Limbo as Coastal Impact Debated
Fidelis E. Satriastanti
Negotiations on damages between the government and the Australian-based oil company responsible for the 2009 Timor Sea oil spill have stalled once again, a senior official said on Tuesday.
In their previous meeting last December, the government and PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production, agreed to carry out a joint survey to assess the impact of the disaster on Indonesian fisheries.
Both also agreed to verify the results by the end of February. The spill was the result of a blowout at the Montara platform off the northwest coast of Australia on Aug. 21, 2009.
Masnellyarti Hilman, head of the Indonesian government team negotiating with the company, said the latest falling out had been over whether coastal areas had been affected by the slick.
“We agreed on the fact that fisheries were affected [by the spill] and it was also their basis to check on our claims,” she said.
“However, in our claims we also included seaweed, mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses in the coastal areas as affected areas. This is where the company objected [to Indonesia’s claims] because they said our data and their data were different. Their modeling didn’t include coastal areas, while ours did.”
Masnellyarti said the government was now waiting for the company to verify Indonesia’s results on impacts to fisheries before talking about any compensation.
“They’re still looking for the methodology to verify the fisheries results,” she said.
“They were supposed to do the field research in mid-February, but we haven’t heard anything yet. They suggested a meeting on March 4, but we can’t go, so we proposed March 8.”
She added the team’s report found that the oil slick from Montara had reached fishing grounds at least 56 miles from coastal areas.
Luechai Wongsirasawad, a spokesman for PTTEP, said the company was still in the process of setting up the field survey team that would comprise Indonesian, Thai and Australian representatives.
“The scope of the survey is being discussed with the [Indonesian government’s] advocacy team,” he said.
“A few meetings already took place between scientists of the advocacy team and PTTEP to verify the data. There are still some areas of disagreement that will require further data gathering and verification.”
Luechai also said both sides would have their next meeting very soon to discuss the areas of disagreement.
He added the Indonesian government had requested and already received the oil-spill modeling input data from the Australian government to be used to verify the results of its initial model.
Masnellyarti said that at the next meeting, both sides would discuss the company’s two options to resolve the deadlock in negotiations.
“The first option is that they will pay the government’s expenses and develop corporate social responsibility programs in the affected areas,” she said.
“The second option is that they will pay the claims based on [the first model]. We said we want to think about it because we don’t want CSR to replace the claims. The other thing that will probably be discussed at the next meeting is the need for a third party to serve as a referee because this is taking too long and there are too many disagreements.”