Nigeria ordered to release the San Padre Pio, its cargo and crew

Bern, 06.07.2019 - In an order delivered today, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg has ruled that the San Padre Pio, a vessel flying the Swiss flag, and its crew and cargo must be released. Switzerland welcomes this decision. Nigeria has been holding the San Padre Pio, with its crew and cargo, for more than 17 months. The order largely upholds the request that Switzerland submitted to the tribunal.

Switzerland maintains that Nigeria's detention of the San Padre Pio is in breach of international law. The Nigerian authorities claim that the ship and the crew members concerned violated local law when transporting oil off the coast of Nigeria. In Switzerland's view, the vessel was not in Nigeria's territorial waters and therefore Nigeria had no right to detain the ship and its crew.

On 21 May 2019, Switzerland submitted a request for provisional measures in this case to the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The tribunal held a hearing with both parties on 21 and 22 June 2019 in connection with Switzerland's request. The grounds for the request were that the ongoing detention of the vessel, its crew and cargo was causing irreparable prejudice to Switzerland, which therefore demanded their release. The tribunal's decision has now largely upheld this request. With a view to the implementation of the provisional measures, the court has ordered Switzerland to post a bond or other financial security of USD 14 million. The order was delivered today by the president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in the presence of both parties. Switzerland was represented by Ambassador Corinne Cicéron Bühler, Head of the Directorate of International Law at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

The question of whether Nigeria has violated international law by detaining the San Padre Pio, its crew and cargo will be decided in separate legal proceedings.

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