The 2009 Oil Spill Tragedy of Montara, Timor Sea: Can it be Solved?


Yesterday, August 21, 2022, exactly 13 years ago, most of Indonesia's territorial waters in the Timor Sea were contaminated with crude oil due to the explosion of the Montara oil rig in the Atlas Block of Northwest Timor at that time.

The humanitarian tragedy that occurred on August 21, 2009, then "killed" more than 100,000 people's livelihoods in East Nusa Tenggara, especially seaweed farmers, fishermen, as well as various strange diseases that attack coastal communities to the point of death, and the destruction of tens of thousands of hectares. coral reefs in the waters of the Timor Sea.

The humanitarian and environmental tragedy occurred in the Timor Sea which has polluted about 90,000 square kilometers of the Timor Sea and many seaweed farmers and fishermen in the island-based province have been affected. Even the income of seaweed farmers and fishermen in the Timor Sea since then has fallen between 50 percent and 85 percent. This tragedy has also resulted in a large number of children dropping out of school, developing strange diseases that have resulted in death and tens of thousands of hectares of coral reefs being destroyed spread across 13 regencies and cities in NTT.

Then also in 2016 around 16,000 seaweed farmers in Rote Regency and Kupang Regency filed a class action case at the Australian Federal Court in the City of Sydney. The third effort was carried out, namely in 2018 the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan formed the Montara Task Force which is still working today which consists of six people, namely the Chair and members and an Executive Secretary.

After being formed as a Montara task force, in 2019, our party appointed a lawyer from the UK, Monica Feria-Ink, to bring the Montara Oil Spill Disaster to the United Nations (UN). The effort paid off, in 2021 an Australian court had won the NTT community's lawsuit, but the Timor Sea polluting company PTTEP, based in Perth-Western Australia, appealed the decision of the Australian Federal Court.

Then in the same year also six commissions on human rights from the United Nations sent a letter to the Federal Government of Australia-Indonesia-Thailand and PTTEP in Bangkok to demand their accountability for the case, so that in May 2021 an answer from the Federal Australia-Indonesia-Thailand came out and PTTEP in Bangkok.

Indonesian Government Efforts

Meanwhile, on April 1, 2022, Ferdi added that the Montara Task Force accompanied by the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan held a press conference at the Office of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment.

During the meeting, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan stated firmly that Indonesian President Jokowi had instructed him to immediately draw up a Presidential Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia on 'optimizing the handling of the impact of the Montara Oil Spill'.

He added that Indonesia has been walking with the affected people in NTT and "We Will Fight at All Costs" and he asked us to continue praying, for that we would like to thank Mr. Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Mr. Joko Widodo.

Compensation Effort

Since the explosion of the Montara oil rig 13 years ago, the government has continued to pursue compensation for the Thai oil and gas company, but has remained at a stalemate.

The oil company, through its official website,, cites independent research that no oil from the Montara Anjungan has entered the Indonesian and Australian mainland, and even claims that the oil spill has had little or no impact on the ecosystem. or marine species in the waters of the Timor Sea.

The facts in the field have proven that pollution has had a major impact on the seaweed farmers who develop the green gold business in the coastal areas of the NTT archipelago with an average monthly income in the range of Rp. 10 million to Rp. 40 million, but the expected compensation is not has been sliding for a decade.

The Director General (Dirjen) of General Legal Administration of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights Cahyo R. Muzhar once said that the time to calculate losses was quite long because the government needed to synchronize data from various parties regarding the massive damage and losses.

The economic impact of the Montara oil spill was also felt very heavily by Ferdi Tanoni, who fought alone to defend the rights of the people affected. The man who was born in Niki-Niki in South Central Timor Regency, NTT, always rubs his chest when he remembers the suffering experienced by the people of NTT for 10 years without any clarity until now.

Dr. Robert Spies said that polluted seaweed in the waters of NTT experienced very severe oil sedimentation, so it took a long time to restore the situation. Moreover, there is no technology that can blow the oil sediment in a flash. "We also don't know how long this case will end," said Ferdi Tanoni.

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