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UN court orders Switzerland to hand Nigeria $14m bond for release of detained oil vessel

A United Nations court sitting in Hamburg, Germany, has ruled that the Swiss government should post a $14 million bond to Nigeria for the release of an oil vessel and four crew members.

The bond is pending a tribunal sitting which will rule on whether the detainment was in compliance with sea laws.

In a ruling delivered on July 6, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) said Switzerland must also ensure that the four Ukranian crew members are available to face criminal proceedings if need be.

By a majority of 17 to four votes, the court ordered an immediate release of the San Padre Pio and its crew and cargo on these conditions.

The Swiss government have been given until July 22 to accept or reject the conditions.

The vessel, San Padre Pio, was intercepted by the Nigerian Navy in January 2018 while transferring crude from another ship.

Upon arrest in the Gulf of Guinea, the vessel was detained in Port Harcourt while the crew members were moved to a prison and charged with “conspiring to distribute and deal with petroleum product without lawful authority or appropriate licence”.

Although other crew members were released and allowed to leave Nigeria, the shipmaster and three other officers were released on bail and are not allowed to leave the country without approval from the court.

Switzerland authorities claim that the ship was outside Nigeria’s coast when it was arrested while their Nigerian counterpart said proof of paying sea protection, offshore oil reception facility and 3% import levies could not be provided upon request.

A tribunal will be constituted to decide the case.

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