Almost nine years after the Montara oil spill, more than 12,000 Indonesian seaweed farmers scored two major victories in their class-action lawsuit. Not only did the Federal Court agree to hear their case, but it also granted an extension for the principal to prepare his claim.
Justice David Yates allowed the lead applicant Daniel Sanda more time to file the claim based on the requirements of Northern Territory. Sanda and the rest of the 15,000 farmers are taking PTTEP Australasia to court, suing them for $200 million as compensation for property damage and financial loss.
What Exactly Happened
These seaweed farmers maintained their business in Nusa Tenggara Timur, which is at the southernmost portion of the Indonesian archipelago and includes a part of the West Timor.
It is one of the poorest regions in the country. Most of its people lived through agriculture and use of its natural resources such as seaweed, which is a lucrative enterprise.
In 2009, the Montara oil spill happened, where wellhead accident led to the release of oil and slick into the Timor Sea. According to the investigation by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, the accident released as much as 2,000 barrels a day, much more than the estimate of its operator PTTEP Australasia at 400 barrels.
The worst in Australia
Considered the worst oil disasters in Australia, the accident, which began on August 2009, ended only on November 2009 after pumping mud in its relief well. By September and October, seaweed farmers started noticing oil in the farms and surrounding areas, which they believed killed their crops eventually.
It may have also destroyed their cuttings and subsequently lost their next year’s harvest. Since then, the farmers were not able to produce the same volume of harvest before the spill.
Oil spills are, indeed, serious accidents. Their reach and impact can cover a large area over long periods of time. Companies prone to oil spills must not only create a crisis management plan but also invest in preventive tools including spill kits with high-quality materials that don’t easily break down and are highly absorbent.