The Netherlands asks International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to order release of Greenpeace ship and crew

The Netherlands has asked the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg for a provisional measure in the case of the Dutch vessel Arctic Sunrise. It is seeking the release of the Greenpeace ship and its detained crew.

A hearing is expected to be held in Hamburg within two to three weeks, at which the Netherlands and the Russian Federation will present their arguments in the legal dispute. The tribunal will issue its ruling about a month from today.

The proceedings will be conducted on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, to which both the Russian Federation and the Netherlands are party. The proceedings in Hamburg are possible because the Netherlands took the compulsory initial step of instituting an arbitral procedure against the Russian Federation on 4 October 2013. A provisional measure is now being sought because the Netherlands regards the release of the ship and its crew as a matter of urgency.

The arbitral procedure will continue alongside the proceedings in Hamburg. The Russian Federation must appoint an arbitrator by 3 November 2013. The Netherlands has already done so. A total of five arbitrators are required. If Russia fails to act by the 3 November deadline, the Netherlands may ask the President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to appoint the other four arbitrators.

The Netherlands is willing to discontinue both the proceedings in Hamburg and the arbitral procedure if the Russians are prepared to discuss the legal issues involved, but only after the departure of the ship and its crew.