Maritime tribunal orders Nigeria to release Swiss oil tanker

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(Image Courtesy: Global Investigative Journalism Network)

An international tribunal has ruled that Nigeria should release a Swiss-flag-carrying oil tanker and its crew, which has been blocked in the bay of Biafra for over a year.

The San Padre Pio oil tanker, registered with canton Vaud shipping company ABC Maritime,external link was seized by Nigerian authorities in January 2018, who accused the ship and its crew of violating territorial waters and diesel smuggling.

After diplomatic efforts to release the ship proven futile, the Swiss authorities lodged a complaint with the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

In its decision, published on Saturdayexternal link, the maritime tribunal ruled largely in favour of Switzerland, which argued that the tanker had been in international waters and its seizure constituted a violation of international law.

The tribunal noted that the San Padre Pio “has not only been detained for a considerable period of time but also that the vessel and its crew are exposed to constant danger to their security and safety”.

It added that an armed attack against the vessel had occurred on April 15, 2019 and said there was a “real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights of Switzerland”.

While many of the crew were released earlier, four Ukrainian crew members remain on the ship.

The tribunal ruled that Nigeria should “release the San Padre Pio, its cargo and the master and the three officers upon the posting of a bond or other financial security by Switzerland and that the vessel with its cargo and the master and the three officers be allowed to leave the territory and maritime areas under the jurisdiction of Nigeria”. It says Switzerland should provide a financial security of CHF14 million ($14.1 million).

The question of whether Nigeria violated international law will be decided in a separate legal procedure.

(Source: SWI – www.swissinfo.ch)

Sea News, July 8