As previously suggested, on 22 August 2020 Russia did exercise its right to submit preliminary objections in the Dispute Concerning the Detention of Ukrainian Naval Vessels and Servicemen (Ukraine v. the Russian Federation), PCA Case No. 2019-28, contending that the Arbitral Tribunal does not have jurisdiction. Ukraine and Russia disagreed upon whether these preliminary objections are of “an exclusively preliminary character” that may result in bifurcation of the proceedings (Rules of Procedure, Art 11(3)). On 27 October 2020 the Arbitral Tribunal (UNCLOS, Annex VII) issued its Procedural Order No. 2, whereby:
THE ARBITRAL TRIBUNAL HEREBY ORDERS:
1. The Arbitral Tribunal considers that the Preliminary Objections of the Russian Federation appear at this stage to be of a character that justifies having them examined in a preliminary phase, and in accordance with Article 11, paragraph 3, of the Rules of Procedure, decides that the Preliminary Objections of the Russian Federation shall be addressed in a preliminary phase of these proceedings.
2. The proceedings on the merits are hereby suspended.
3. In accordance with paragraph 5(t) of Procedural Order No. l, Ukraine shall file any observations on the Preliminary Objections of the Russian Federation within three months of the date of this Order. Following receipt of these observations, the Arbitral Tribunal will decide whether any further written submissions are needed and, after consultation with the Parties, the time limits for such submissions.
4. If the Arbitral Tribunal, in delivering its award in the preliminary phase of the proceedings in accordance with Article 11 , paragraph 7, of the Rules of Procedure, declares that a Preliminary Objection does not possess an exclusively preliminary character, then, in accordance with
Article 11, paragraph 3, of the Rules of Procedure, that Objection shall be ruled upon in conjunction with the merits.
Judge Gudmundur Eiriksson appended a Dissenting Opinion to the Order of the Arbitral Tribunal. Eiriksson agreed with the decision of the Tribunal but did not share the reasoning of the Tribunal.
See further the PCA Press Release.