SYDNEY – Australia’s Federal Court began on Monday a trial for a lawsuit brought forward by thousands of Indonesian seaweed farmers seeking damages from a subsidiary of Thai state oil company PTT Exploration and Production over an oil spill in the Timor Sea a decade ago.
Some 15,000 farmers are seeking compensation to cover the costs of damages to their farms when thousands of barrels of oil poured into the sea for more than 70 days following an explosion on the Montara oil rig on Aug. 21, 2009.
“Our experts contend that approximately 6,000 barrels of oil per day contaminated the sea – that’s akin to pouring over 70 million liters of sludge into the ocean over the months that the environmental disaster dragged on for,” Ben Slade, a lawyer from the firm Maurice Blackburn, which is leading the trial, said in a statement.
“We are now 10 years on from this environmental disaster and the oil company responsible and its wealthy Thai parent (PTTEP) continue to deny the devastating impact their oil spewing out uncontrollably for months on end had on Indonesian seaweed farmers,” he added.
According to press reports, the farmers are looking to sue PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of PTTEP, to the tune of AU$200 million ($137.5 million).
The main plaintiff, Indonesian Daniel Sanda, argues that the seaweed farming industry on Rote and Kupang Island was destroyed by the oil company’s inability to operate safely.
The oil spill occurred in Australian waters 690 kilometers (428 miles) west of Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, and 250km southeast of Rote Island in Indonesia, a statement from the law firm said.
Around 30 Indonesian witnesses are expected to give evidence at the court in Sydney in a trial that will last 10 weeks.