ITLOS: The M/T “Heroic Idun” Case (Marshall Islands v. Equatorial Guinea), Prompt Release

On 10 November 2022 the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) confirmed receipt of an Application submitted by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, filed against Equatorial Guinea, and thereby entered by ITLOS as Case No. 30: The M/T “Heroic Idun” Case (Marshall Islands v. Equatorial Guinea), Prompt Release. The case concerns a dispute between the Marshall Islands and Equatorial Guinea but as evident in the Application and several press releases by the Nigerian Navy (Press Release 17 August 2022; Press Briefing 19 August 2022; Press Release 9 November 2022), also arrises out of events occurring in the maritime zones of Nigeria.

Of particular interest to Provisional Measures proceedings, the Application submitted by the Republic of the Marshall Islands contends:

Given the paucity of information available to the Applicant at this point, in the absence of any meaningful engagement by Equatorial Guinea in response to the diplomatic and other initiatives by the Applicant, this [Prompt Release] Application does not rest on an asserted breach by the Respondent of Articles 73, 220 or 226 of the Convention. The Applicant reserves the right, however, to amend and supplement this Application, including in the course of a hearing on the matter, to include reference to Article 73, 220 and/or 226 in the event that this is warranted by information that comes to light in the course of these proceedings, whether in the form of claims and submissions by the Respondent or from elsewhere.


Having regard to the context and the urgency of the present case, and the Tribunal’s settled jurisprudence on a plausibility threshold for purposes of prompt release applications, the Marshall Islands contends that the Tribunal should proceed on the basis of a non-restrictive interpretation of Article 292 in respect of this Application.


In addition or in the alternative to the preceding, and having regard to the submissions above about the “non-restrictive interpretation” of Article 292 on which the Marshall Islands primarily relies, the Applicant contends that Article 292(4) provides an independent basis – constituting a “provision of the Convention” for purposes of Article 292(1) – on which the Tribunal’s competence to order prompt release can be engaged.

Application submitted by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, paras. 59, 63 and 81.

Of further note, as evident in Paragraph 2 of the Application, the Marshall Islands intends to submit a dispute on the merits to an UNCLOS Annex VII Arbitral Tribunal (Application, Para. 49(e), while not exhaustive, raises Articles 58(1)-(2), 87, 97 & 110 of UNCLOS), as well as a Request for Provisional Measures (Para. 2 of the Application, refers to ITLOS hearing the provisional measures under Article 290(5) of UNCLOS, but this cannot be presumed until the parties to the dispute have failed to reach agreement on a suitable court or tribunal within 2 weeks, and the Arbitral Tribunal has not been formed).

The Submissions of the Marshall Islands are found in Paragraphs 87-88 of the Application, including the usual Prompt Release requests as well as several “requests the President of the Tribunal, relying on the Tribunal’s inherent competence and proprio motu powers, exemplified but not confined by Article 90(4) of the Tribunal’s Rules” concerning safety, security, and cooperation/information exchange between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.

For more information see ITLOS Press Release 323.

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