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Switzerland, Nigeria Transfer Tanker Arrest Dispute to Tribunal

Switzerland and Nigeria have agreed to submit to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) their dispute concerning the arrest and detention of the tanker San Padre Pio, its crew and cargo.

The agreement between the two governments was reached on December 3, 2019, ITLOS said in a statement.

Back in 2018, Nigerian authorities arrested the Switzerland-flagged ship while it was allegedly engaged in ship-to-ship (STS) transfers of gasoil in Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The 7,600 dwt tanker, operated by Swiss ABC Maritime, was detained due to “unauthorized entry into Nigerian waters and illegal fuel trading” although the ship’s captain claimed that San Padre Pio had permission to ship the fuel to Nigeria.

Earlier this year, Switzerland began arbitral proceedings under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea against Nigeria, submitting a request for the prescription of provisional measures in May. Specifically, Switzerland requested the tribunal to order the release of the 2012-built San Padre Pio.

In July, ITLOS prescribed provisional measures by ordering Nigeria to free the Swiss tanker, its cargo and crew, after Switzerland provides relevant guarantees. No further updates on the matter have been provided since then, however, the ship’s AIS data from VesselsValue shows that San Padre Pio is still anchored at Bonny Anchorage.

During consultations with President Paik, held at the tribunal on December 2 and 3, 2019, the parties agreed to transfer the dispute to the tribunal.

The Swiss government has appointed Corinne Cicéron Bühler, Director of the Directorate of International Law of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs as its agent and the Nigerian government has appointed Stella Anukam, Director, International Law and Comparative Law, Federal Ministry of Justice as its agent, for the purpose of all proceedings in the case.