A case involving a Swiss tanker vessel named MT San Padre Pio detained by the Nigerian Navy has been struck out of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea’s (ITLOS) list of cases.
The case was struck out on December 29, 2021 on the orders of the President of the tribunal, Judge Albert Hoffmann after both Nigeria and Switzerland reach an out-of-court settlement.
In late January 2018, the Nigerian Navy intercepted and arrested the 7,600 dwt ship while it was engaged in ship-to-ship transfers of gasoil in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Nigeria.
The tanker, operated by Swiss ABC Maritime, was arrested 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 the country. The 2012-built vessel was then ordered to proceed to Port Harcourt and to remain there under detention.
In June 2019, Switzerland requested ITLOS to order the release of the tanker. A month later, the tribunal ordered Nigeria to free the ship.
The proceedings in the MT San Padre Pio case were instituted on 17 December 2019 by a special agreement concluded between Switzerland and Nigeria to submit to the tribunal their dispute concerning the arrest and detention of the MT San Padre Pio, its crew and cargo.
In May 2021, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Justice of Nigeria signed an agreement for the release of the vessel.
By a letter addressed to the Registrar dated 10 December 2021, the agent of Switzerland informed the tribunal that in accordance with a memorandum of understanding signed by Switzerland and Nigeria on 20 May 2021, the proceedings of the MT San Padre Pio case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea shall be discontinued from the moment that the vessel enters the high seas, or the territorial sea or exclusive economic zone of another state.
In the said letter, the agent of Switzerland also informed the tribunal that “as of 10 December 2021, the vessel exited the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria, and entered the exclusive economic zone of Bénin, and that in accordance with the terms of the MoU, Switzerland requests the tribunal to record the discontinuance of the case and to remove it from the tribunal’s list of cases.
By letter addressed to the Registrar dated 24 December 2021, filed in the Registry on 27 December 2021, the agent of Nigeria indicated that on 10th of December 2021, San Padre Pio was released and departed the Maritime space of Nigeria and entered the exclusive economic zone of Benin Republic, and that “on this basis therefore, Nigeria has no objection whatsoever to the discontinuance of the case by the tribunal as already notified by Switzerland.”
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