Switzerland turns to courts to force Nigeria to return seized oil tanker

Photo courtesy: Vessel Finder
Photo courtesy: Vessel Finder

Switzerland is appealing to an international court to order Nigeria to release a Swiss-flagged oil tanker, its cargo and crew.

The San Padre Pio has been detained off Port Harcourt for the past 16 months.

Nigeria first intercepted the vessel January 2018 as it transferred diesel between ships. The Nigerian government says the ship illegally entered its waters and also accused crew members of engaging in illegal diesel trafficking. The ship’s captain denies the claims and says he had obtained all of the necessary permits.

While most of the crew had been permitted to leave the ship, four Ukrainian officers remained stuck onboard.

“This situation is difficult for the officers concerned to bear,” the foreign ministry said, adding that “the ship, as well as the cargo, are steadily losing their value, causing increasing damage to the companies involved.”

Private companies are not the only ones taking a hit as the tanker remains docked.

According to RTS, Switzerland has guaranteed the ship to the tune of several million francs (dollars), meaning that if the shipping company fails to honour its payments, Swiss taxpayers will be left holding the bill.

“The continued detention of the ship, including crew and cargo, is resulting in irreparable damage to Switzerland,” the foreign ministry warned.

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