As previously reported, on 10 November 2022 the Republic of the Marshall Islands had initiated prompt release proceedings against Equatorial Guinea concerning the M/T “Heroic Idun” whilst the vessel and crew were within the jurisdiction, control and custody of Equatorial Guinea. On 11 November 2022, the President of ITLOS via Order 2022/2 fixed the 24 November 2022 as the date for the opening of the hearings.
However, as detailed by the Marshall Islands (Order 2022/3, para 6) and confirmed by a Press Briefing by the Nigerian Navy (Briefing 15 November 2022), on 11 November 2022 “Equatorial Guinea caused the Vessel and her crew to be transferred into the jurisdiction, control and custody of Nigeria”, with the Nigerian Navy escort and M/T Heroic Idun subsequently arriving off Bonny Offshore Terminal II on 12 November 2022. As the Marshall Islands highlighted, “[t]hese developments have regrettably rendered moot the Marshall Islands’ Prompt Release Application […] [a]s a result, the Marshall Islands is compelled to discontinue the proceedings” (Order 2022/3, paras 7-8). On 15 November 2022, the President of ITLOS via Order 2022/3 placed on record the discontinuance of the prompt release proceedings and ordered that the case be removed from the ITLOS list of cases. It should be noted, as of 14 November 2022, “the Government of Equatorial Guinea had not taken any steps in the proceedings” (Order 2022/3, para 10).
According to the Nigerian Navy, the request to Equatorial Guinea to arrest the vessel, the Nigeria/Equatorial Guinea information exchange, the Nigeria/Equatorial Guinea coordination and the transfer of the suspected vessel and persons from Equatorial Guinea to Nigeria was based on the 2013 Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships, and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa.
The Nigerian Navy noted a number of domestic legal provisions it believes the M/T Heroic Idun and/or crew “could” have violated. Press reporting on the first arraignment hearing at the Federal High Court Port Harcourt concerning some of the crew members (14 November 2022) list three charges that correlate with some of the Nigerian Navy points, namely two offences under the 2019 Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act and one offence under 2004 Miscellaneous Offences Act. A Statement by OSM, the Ship Manager, offers a different version of the underlying incidents.
For more information see the ITLOS Press Release 324.