Photo Essays | Environment | Southeast Asia

Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

In July, oil began bubbling to the surface of the Java Sea and washing ashore, slicking beaches black.

By Agoes Rudianto for
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

A net is placed on the shoreline to catch oil rising to the surface from an offshore well.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

A new sign installed at Sedari Beach, Karawang, notes that swimming is banned. The beach is being cleaned of oil that spilled into the Java Sea from a well owned by the Indonesian state oil and gas company, PT Pertamina.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Workers comb the beach area affected by the oil spill.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Oil blackens the beach.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Clumps of oil dot the coast.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

PT Pertamina’s has focused on stopping the oil spill and cleaning up the mess.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Oil sticks to mangrove trees in West Java.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Royani, a villager, works for $7 a day cleaning the beach.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Workers don full-body protection to avoid contact with the oil, and use facemasks and goggles to protect themselves.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Medical personnel checked the health of the workers.

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Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Inspections were carried out routinely to ensure the safety of the workers.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Workers took a rest among the mangroves.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Simple equipment and many hands were used to collect the oil.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

Workers used motorbikes to carry sacks filled with contaminated sand to a collection point.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

A sign denotes poisonous materials on the side of a truck used in the cleanup operation.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto
Oil Spilling Into the Java Sea

The well is expected to be fixed by the end of September, and with in the cleanup operation.

Credit: Agoes Rudianto

In mid-July, one of three oil wells owned by the Indonesian state-owned oil and gas company, PT Pertamina, under an offshore platform in the North West Java (ONWJ) Offshore Block began leaking into the sea north of Karawang City, West Java.

By mid-August, the company had deployed 44 vessels to work at containing the spill as oil slicked to the surface along with bubbles of gas.

Nevertheless, at least seven beaches in West Java and several villages were affected by the spill lapping ashore. Crude oil reached as far as the seven islands at Pulau Seribu in Jakarta, about 60 km west of the facility. Beaches popular with tourists closed and the hauls of fishermen declined in the polluted area.

Every day for weeks after the spill, hundreds of people were mobilized to clean up the beaches. Wearing protective clothing, including masks and gloves, their work started early to beat the heat of the rising sun.

PT Pertamina promised to handle the leak off the Karawang coast, hiring a U.S.-based well control company – Boots & Coots – to assist. Boots & Coots handled the infamous 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. PT Pertamina aims to fix the well by late September.

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Agoes Rudianto is independent photographer based in Jakarta, Indonesia