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Nigeria to release Swiss ship seized three years ago

Sodiq Oyeleke

The Federal Government has agreed to release the Swiss-flagged San Padre Pio oil tanker that was seized in January 2018.

Switzerland’s foreign ministry made this known in a press statement on its website on Thursday, titled, ‘Switzerland and Nigeria sign an agreement for the release of the vessel San Padre Pio’.

According to the statement, this followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding by Swiss’ Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Justice of Nigeria on Thursday.

The vessel, which flies the Swiss flag, was detained in January 2018 in Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone.

The statement read in part, “Following extensive diplomatic efforts by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research and the Federal Department of Finance, a memorandum of understanding providing for the immediate release of the vessel was signed on 20 May 2021.

“It is now incumbent on Nigeria to release the vessel and on the companies involved in operating the San Padre Pio to take the necessary operational measures for the actual departure of the vessel.

“The agreement was signed by Nigeria’s minister of justice and the Swiss ambassador in Nigeria.

“The agreement is the result of numerous interventions of Switzerland vis-à-vis Nigeria with a view to the release of the vessel.

“Once the vessel has been able to leave Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone, the legal proceeding pending before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg can be terminated.”

Nigerian authorities first intercepted the San Padre Pio as it was transferring diesel between ships, Swiss broadcaster RTS said when Bern took its case to the ITLOS.

The ship, which can carry nearly 5,500 tonnes of cargo, was accused of entering Nigerian waters illegally and illegal diesel trafficking — allegations rejected by the captain who insisted he had obtained all of the necessary permits.

At the time, the Swiss foreign ministry complained that the ship and its cargo were steadily losing their value.

Switzerland had initiated legal proceedings before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.


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