Subject: RI says may seek compensation over Timor Sea oil leak

Indonesia says may seek compensation over Timor Sea oil leak

By Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Indonesia may seek compensation from a company operating a Timor Sea oil rig that leaked into Australian and Indonesian waters and then caught fire, a foreign ministry official said on Friday.

The West Atlas rig operated by PTTEP Australasia, a unit of top Thai energy firm PTT Exploration and Production, began leaking on August 21 and caught fire on Sunday. The fire has since been put out, and the leak plugged.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told reporters that Indonesia's transport ministry would write a report on the damage caused by the leaking oil.

"If there is sufficient evidence of damage, the company must be responsible and pay compensation," he said.

"We already received some complaints from the local government and the fishermen from that area, complaining of the pollution and the damage made by the oil spill."

Faizasyah said the transport ministry would deliver its report next week and that it would also be sent to the Australian government.

Between 300 and 400 barrels a day were estimated to have been leaking from the oil well, the Department of Resources and Energy and Tourism had said on its website. (Writing by Sunanda Creagh; Editing by Sara Webb)


The Jakarta Post Friday, November 6, 2009

Oil leak plugged, compensation still urged

Yemris Fointuna , The Jakarta Post, Kupang

Local fishermen are still demanding compensation despite a statement from the Australian government that a team of experts have successfully plugged the leaking oil well in the Montara oil field in Australian waters and put out the fire at one of its offshore rigs.

Speaking in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, West Timor Foundation director Ferdi Tanoni expressed satisfaction at the achievement of the Australian engineers in overcoming the oil spill. However, he expected Australia to act responsibly and continue mitigation efforts to lessen the pollution impacts.

"Indonesian fishermen, who have suffered the most losses, should get compensation in the form of cash and special benefits, because those on Rote and Timor islands have had to totally stop fishing because clumps of oil sludge have polluted waters, especially in the Timor Sea," Tanoni said Thursday.

Tanoni supported the Australian government's measures to form an independent commission this week to conduct comprehensive research on the cause of the oil leak.

"The commission will work together with the fact-finding team formed by the Australian Worldwide Fund for Nature and the West Timor Care Foundation. The independent commission is expected to visit NTT to assess the damage and observe the impacts from the three-month oil spill," he added.

"Some of the facts that must be proved are the extent of the damage to the environment and the volume of dead surface fish, including whales, dolphins and sharks, as well as damage to coral reefs and deep-sea fish. The facts would serve as a reference for the restoration process," Tanoni said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Angky Septiana, the public affairs officer at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, said in a press release the leak had been stopped.

"Oil is no longer leaking from the well, but work is still being done to make sure the well is permanently plugged. Australia is also making strenuous efforts to provide comprehensive mitigation," Septiana said in the press release.

She said engineers were able to plug the leak on Nov. 3 and drilling experts had successfully extinguished the fire on the oil platform by pumping heavy mud into the leaking well. "The moment the oil rig has cooled down and engineers have ensured the structure is safe, drilling experts will board the rig to cap the well, to make sure there are no further leaks," she said.

She added that the Australian government would continue working to clean up the oil spill.

"The cleanup operation and environmental analysis will continue. Australia is talking to Indonesia about the possibility of sending officials to Indonesia in early November to hold talks with their counterparts and conduct further tests on samples," she said.

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