HRAS Advisory Board Member becomes first female ITLOS Judge ad hoc

Press Release

18th July 2019

Photo Credit: ITLOS/University of Basel

London. UK.  Human Rights at Sea is delighted to report that Prof. Dr. Anna Petrig, Professor of International Law at the University of Basel, Human Rights at Sea Advisory Board Member, and co-author of the emerging Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea, was appointed as a judge ad hoc at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg for the San Padre Pio case.

First reported by the University of Basel, the appointment of Anna Petrig marks the first time that a woman has been appointed as judge ad hoc at the ITLOS. Among the 21 permanent judges of the ITLOS, only three are women: in 2011, the Argentine Elsa Kelly was appointed to the bench, and in 2017 Neeru Chadha from India and Liesbeth Lijnzaad from the Netherlands were elected.

Anna has been involved in the Swiss-flagged San Padre Pio case where in January 2018, Nigeria arrested the vessel, which was to supply fuel to an offshore oil production platform off the coast of Nigeria.

According to the Nigerian authorities, the transport violated domestic law. Ship, crew, and cargo were seized. In Switzerland’s view, the ship was not in Nigeria’s territorial waters and therefore Nigeria had no right to detain it.

In May 2019, Switzerland initiated arbitration proceedings in this case and also submitted a request for provisional measures to ITLOS in Hamburg. As the ITLOS has neither a permanent judge from Switzerland nor from Nigeria, both parties were allowed to appoint a judge ad hoc for this case. Switzerland appointed Prof. Dr. Anna Petrig as judge ad hoc. The Professor of International Law at the University of Basel is a sought-after worldwide expert on the subject of law of the sea.

In the case, ITLOS decided on the provisional measures. It ruled largely in favor of Switzerland’s request and ordered Nigeria to release the San Padre Pio, its crew and cargo. In order to protect Nigeria’s rights, the tribunal has ordered Switzerland to post a bond or other financial security of USD 14 million. The ensuing arbitral tribunal will decide whether a payment must be made to Nigeria from this security.

“This is a historic case,” says Professor Petrig. “Not only is this the very first time that a land-locked country has appeared before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The decision is also of a fundamental nature, as offshore uses in the so-called ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’ rapidly increase. For example, numerous offshore windfarms are being built as part of the energy transformation. With all these new uses of the sea, the question arises as to how far the respective powers of the coastal state and the flag state extend.”

ITLOS was established by the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea – the so-called “Constitution of the Oceans”. The UN tribunal is competent for adjudicating disputes arising from the Convention on the Law of the Sea, notably in provisional measures proceedings, as in this case.



Important Note to Readers

Human Rights at Sea continues to publish educational materials, publications, investigative case studies of individual and family testimony highlighting unacceptable conditions onboard vessels of all tonnages, as well as throughout the associated maritime supply chain, in order to establish greater public awareness of the issues raised without compromising our editorial freedom.

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The charity will therefore continue to take a legal and moral stand whenever and wherever it can to fairly advocate for the betterment of human rights, working conditions, and the reduction in abuse at sea. This includes pressing issues such as the criminalisation of seafarers and humanitarian rescuers, abuses towards migrants, impunity of flag States in transparently reacting to and addressing reported abuse, the expansion of the positive contributory role of civil society organisations in the maritime sector, and the provision of greater awareness of effective remedies when abuse occurs.

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