The M/T “San Padre Pio” Case (Switzerland v. Nigeria)


Nigeria won an important victory before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), in a decision handed down on July 6, 2019, in a case brought against the African state by Switzerland.

The Tribunal’s Order on Provisional Measures, in The M/T “San Padre Pio” Case (Switzerland v. Nigeria), upheld Nigeria’s right to arrest and detain a Swiss-flagged oil tanker, its crew, and cargo, for having violated Nigeria’s laws by engaging in ship-to-ship transfers of fuel oil for use in hydrocarbon production activities in Nigerian waters without the required permits and authorizations.

In May 2019, Switzerland challenged Nigeria’s enforcement actions by instituting arbitral proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Switzerland also requested that the Tribunal, which sits in Hamburg, order the suspension of Nigeria’s criminal prosecutions of the vessel’s master and officers, and that they and the vessel be released.

In its Order, the Tribunal rejected Switzerland’s request that the prosecutions be suspended. It also conditioned the release of the vessel and the criminal defendants upon Switzerland’s posting of a bond in the amount of US$14 million, and on Switzerland’s unequivocal assurances, in the form of an undertaking binding under international law, that they would return to Nigeria to face criminal prosecution should Nigeria prevail in the arbitral proceedings.

The Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice of Nigeria Dayo Apata hailed the Tribunal’s decision as “a vindication of Nigeria’s right to proceed with prosecuting these serious violations of Nigerian law, which is a key part of its efforts to combat maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea.”

Nigeria was represented in the proceedings before the Tribunal by its Agent, Stella Anukam, its Co-Agents Chinwe Uwandu and Amb. Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, and by a legal team that included Professor Dapo Akande of Oxford University, three partners from Foley Hoag LLP – Andrew Loewenstein (Picture), Tafadzwa Pasipanodya, and Derek Smith – and Foley Hoag attorneys Arsalan Suleman, Tracy Roosevelt, Peter Tzeng, and Alejandra Torres Camprubí.

Involved fees earner: Andrew Loewenstein – Foley Hoag; Tafadzwa Pasipanodya – Foley Hoag; Tracy Roosevelt – Foley Hoag; Derek Smith – Foley Hoag; Arsalan Suleman – Foley Hoag; Alejandra Torres Camprubí – Foley Hoag; Peter Tzeng – Foley Hoag;

Law Firms: Foley Hoag;

Clients: Republic of Nigeria;

Author: Ambrogio Visconti