Netherlands takes dispute with Russia over Greenpeace ship to UN-backed tribunal

UN Photo/Martine Perret

21 October 2013 – The Netherlands today submitted a request to the United Nations-backed International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for provisional measures in a dispute with Russia over the recent arrest and detention of a ship used by Greenpeace International to stage a protest over oil drilling.

According to the Netherlands, the Arctic Sunrise – an icebreaker operated by the environmental group and which flies the flag of the Netherlands – was boarded by coastguard officials on 19 September, brought to the port of Murmansk Oblast and detained.

In addition, 30 crew members of various nationalities were arrested and detained in Murmansk Oblast and judicial proceedings have been initiated against them.

The vessel was being used by Greenpeace to stage a protest against the offshore ice-resistant fixed platform ‘Prirazlomnaya’ in the Barents Sea.

On 4 October, the Netherlands instituted arbitral proceedings against Russia under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, claiming that that the arrest and detention of the vessel and its crew by Russia took place in violation of the provisions of the treaty.

Pending those proceedings, the Netherlands is requesting the Tribunal to prescribe that Russia immediately enable the vessel to be re-supplied, to leave its place of detention and the maritime areas under Russian jurisdiction and to exercise the freedom of navigation.

It is also asking the Tribunal to prescribe that Russia immediately release the crew members and allow them to leave Russian territory and maritime areas; suspend all judicial and administrative proceedings, and refrain from initiating any further proceedings, in connection with the incidents leading to the boarding and detention of the vessel, and refrain from taking or enforcing any judicial or administrative measures against the vessel, its crew members, its owners and its operators; and ensure that no other action is taken which might aggravate or extend the dispute.

A hearing on the request submitted by the Netherlands will be held on a date to be announced.

Based in the German city of Hamburg, the Tribunal deals with disputes arising from the application of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was adopted in 1992.

Often called the “constitution for the oceans,” the Convention governs all aspects of ocean space, including the delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues.


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