Harbour Fund backs AUD$ 200m+ litigation for seaweed farmers

3 August 2016

Harbour Litigation Funding Limited, a global expert in the financing of legal fees, announced that Harbour Fund II is backing an AUD$ 200m+ class action run by Australia’s leading class action specialists Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

More than 13,000 seaweed farmers, whose livelihoods were decimated by an avoidable oil spill on the Montara oil field west of Darwin, launch an Australian class action against PTTEP Australasia (Ashmore Cartier) Pty Ltd, the oil giant responsible for operating the Montara Well Head Platform, the rig that leaked. The class action is brought by Daniel Sanda on behalf of himself and other Indonesian seaweed farmers.

On 21 August 2009, the Montara oil rig began uncontrollably spewing oil and gas into the Timor Sea, about 250kms southeast of Rote Island, Indonesia, for more than 70 days. It is estimated that in excess of 300,000 litres of oil per day contaminated the sea. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority sprayed more than 180,000 litres of dispersants into the water. The result was devastating for thousands of Indonesian seaweed farmers located in the area, many of whom had successfully moved from being subsistence farmers to having enough money to send children to university.

Stephen O’Dowd, Senior Director of Litigation Funding said: “Although the Harbour Funds invest in a wide range of commercial litigation, it is particularly rewarding when that financial support helps those who otherwise may not get access to justice.”

Ben Slade, Class Actions Principal and Managing Partner of Maurice Blackburn in NSW said: “The impacts continue to hurt the Nusa Tengarra Timur community and our investigations show that the operator of the oil rig has a serious case to answer regarding cutting corners that has endangered lives, the environment and the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.” He added: “These people have found their voice and they’ve found powerful allies to help them be heard and to speak for them in the pursuit of justice.”

Susan Dunn, Harbour’s Head of Litigation Funding agreed: “The financial backing by Harbour Fund II ensures that clients with good claims have the means to pursue them.”

Greg Phelps of Ward Keller, a driving force behind bringing this action to life, said: “This was a disaster of epic proportions and these farmers are the unwitting victims. They deserve justice and respect from the company that has caused them such harm.”

Leading news channels and broadsheets such as ABC2, BBC News, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Brisbane Times and The Guardian, to name but a few, reported the case in depth and continue to do so.

Media room

Sign up to receive the latest news, opinions and event information