Switzerland has asked an international court to order Nigeria to release a Swiss-flagged oil tanker, its cargo and crew that have been detained off Port Harcourt for the past 16 months.
The Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement weekend that it had appealed on May 21 to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to order Nigeria to release the San Padre Pio tanker.
“Switzerland requests that the court release the ship, including the crew and cargo, and suspend the ongoing proceedings in Nigeria,” the statement said.
Nigerian Navy first intercepted the San Padre Pio in January 2018 as it was transferring diesel between ships, according to a local Swiss broadcaster.
The ship, which can carry nearly 5,500 tonnes of cargo, was accused of entering Nigerian waters illegally and of illegal diesel trafficking. The allegations were, however, rejected by the captain who insisted he had obtained all of the necessary permits.
While most of the crew had been permitted to leave the ship, four Ukrainian officers remain onboard.
“This situation is difficult for the officers concerned to bear. The ship as well as the cargo are steadily losing their value, causing increasing damage to the companies involved,” the Swiss Foreign Ministry said.
According to RTS, Switzerland has guaranteed the ship to the tune of several million francs, meaning that if the shipping company fails to honour its payments to its obligors, Swiss taxpayers will have to foot the bill.
“The continued detention of the ship, including crew and cargo is resulting in irreparable damage to Switzerland,” the Ministry added.