Last week, an Australian court ordered Thai energy giant PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) to pay fines totalling A$510,000 (16.5 million baht) for damages from the 2009 Montara oil spill off the coast of northwest Australia in the Timor Sea. Indonesia is still seeking US$2.4 billion (75.3 billion baht) in compensation for damage to reefs and fisheries. Reportedly none of the oil washed up on Australian shores.
An Australian government inquiry found that PTTEP was culpable for widespread and systematic shortcomings leading to the spill. PTTEP pleaded guilty to breaching the Offshore Petroleum Act, and admitted it failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the spill and placed rig workers in danger. Fortunately all 69 workers were safely evacuated after the blowout from the Montara wellhead platform on Aug 21, 2009.
Considering that at least 20,000 barrels of oil leaked over a period of 10 weeks the fine seems rather light, but this was largely because PTTEP took immediate responsibility and the court determined that it also took appropriate actions to mitigate damages, working closely with the Australian government. Magistrate John Lowndes determined that PTTEP had shown contrition and remorse over the Montara incident, and had ``met head-on its culpability''.
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