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Comments on ITLOS, M/T “San Padre Pio” Case (Switzerland v. Nigeria), Provisional Measures Order (6 July 2019)

Published on July 31, 2019        Author: 

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Introduction

On July 6, 2019, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) delivered its provisional measures order in the M/T “San Padre Pio” case between Switzerland and Nigeria. The summary of the case is available here. In short, the Nigerian navy intercepted and arrested the M/T “San Padre Pio,” a motor tanker flying the flag of Switzerland, while it was engaged in one of several ship-to-ship transfers of gasoil in Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Master and the three officers were detained in prison before they were released and returned to the vessel upon the provision of bail (see Order, paras. 30-41). The Tribunal prescribed that (a) Switzerland shall post a bond or other financial security; (b) Switzerland shall undertake to ensure that the Master and the three officers are available and present at the criminal proceedings in Nigeria, if the Annex VII arbitral tribunal finds Nigeria’s measures do not constitute a violation of the Convention; and (c) Nigeria shall immediately release the vessel, its cargo and the Master, and the three officers to leave the territory and maritime areas under the jurisdiction of Nigeria (Order, para. 146).

Provisional measures are designed to protect the rights of the parties pending the final decision in a dispute. The Convention provides that the measures shall be appropriate to the circumstances so as to preserve the rights of the Parties pending the final decision of the Annex VII arbitral tribunal (UNCLOS, Article 290(1)), and the order has to be prescribed only when the urgency of the situation so requires (ibid, Article 290(5)). It follows that the Tribunal shall ensure that the rights of the two parties are equally preserved and shall not prejudge the question of the jurisdiction of the Annex VII arbitral tribunal or the merits themselves.

However, this order demonstrated the Tribunal’s willingness to take a pro-active approach to provisional measures yet again. While this tendency was already pointed out when the Arctic Sunrise provisional measures order was prescribed (see Guilfoyle & Miles, p.272), the present case seems to have further expanded its reach. The rest of this Post will examine (1) whether the Tribunal’s assessment of the urgency test was consistent with Convention and previous cases; and (2) whether the Tribunal’s decision equally preserved the rights of state parties. Read the rest of this entry…

 
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The Distinction between Military and Law Enforcement Activities: Comments on Case Concerning the Detention of Three Ukrainian Naval Vessels (Ukraine V. Russian Federation), Provisional Measures Order

Published on May 31, 2019        Author: 

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International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS) issued a provisional measures order to Russian Federation to release three Ukrainian naval vessels and their servicemen on 25 May 2019. In deciding that the Annex VII arbitral tribunal would have prima facie jurisdiction as required under Article 290(5) of United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Tribunal held that the case was not “disputes concerning military activities” as provided under Article 298(1)(b) (see Kraska).

This is an important decision considering that there is no settled definition of “military activities” which allows state parties to be exempted from the compulsory dispute settlement procedure under UNCLOS. This is the first time that ITLOS held its interpretation on the former half of Article 298(1)(b) (while the latter half was dealt in the provisional measures order in Arctic Sunrise, para.45), and South China Sea arbitration case of 2016 before Annex VII Arbitral Tribunal remains the only precedent where a third-party dispute settlement institution held its interpretation of the same text.

There seems to be a common understanding that in this order, the Tribunal interpreted the scope of the “military activities” under Article 298(1)(b) quite narrowly, if not diminished, and thereby lowered its jurisdictional bar. While assessments of this decision have already been posted (see Kraska, Schatz), this post adds some comments on the legal framework that the Tribunal relied upon.

Preliminary Remarks

One thing that should be kept in mind is that, since it is a provisional measures order, it suffices if the provisions invoked by the applicant prima facie appear to afford a basis on which the jurisdiction of the Annex VII arbitral tribunal could be founded, and need not definitively satisfy itself that the tribunal has jurisdiction over the dispute (Order, para. 36; see also ARA Libertad, para. 60). Judge Lijnzaad’s commented that the questions of the applicable law and of whether the issues raised are solely to be understood as being related to the interpretation and application of UNCLOS were left to Annex VII arbitral tribunal at a later stage, as they are “matters that go well beyond the prima facie analysis of a request for provisional measures (Declaration, Lijnzaad, para.8).” Read the rest of this entry…