The M/V Saiga was an oil tanker flying the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
At the time of the incident with respect to this application, the M/V Saiga served as a bunkering vessel supplying fuel oil to fishing vessels and other vessels operating off the coast of Guinea.
On 27 October 1997, the M/V Saiga, having crossed the maritime boundary between Guinea and Guinea Bissau, entered the exclusive economic zone of Guinea of the Guinean island of Alcatraz.
On 28 October 1997, the M/V Saiga was arrested by Guinean Customs patrol boats. On the same day the vessel was brought into Conakry, Guinea, where the vessel and its crew were detained.
No bond or other financial security was requested by Guinean authorities for the release of the vessel and its crew or offered by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It was then that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines instituted proceedings with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea under article 292 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines submitted that the Tribunal should determine that the vessel, her cargo and crew be released immediately without requiring that any bond be provided. Nevertheless, the Applicant was prepared to provide any security reasonably imposed by the Tribunal.
Guinea requested the Tribunal to dismiss the Applicant’s action.
The Tribunal commenced by considering the question of its jurisdiction under article 292 of the Convention to entertain the Application. After that the Tribunal considered, inter alia, the submission of Guinea that article 73 of the Convention could not form a basis for the application because a bond or other security had not been offered or posted.
The Tribunal found that according to article 292 of the Convention, the posting of the bond or security was a requirement of the provisions of the Convention whose infringement made the procedure of article 292 applicable, and not a requirement for such applicability.
There might have been an infringement of article 73, paragraph 2, of the Convention even when no bond had been posted. The requirement of promptness had a value in itself and could prevail when the posting of the bond had not been possible, had been rejected or was not provided for in the coastal State’s laws or when it was alleged that the required bond was unreasonable.
In this case Guinea had not notified the detention as provided for in article 73, paragraph 4, of the Convention. Guinea had refused to discuss the question of bond and the time-limit relevant for the application for prompt release had elapsed without the willingness to consider the question. In these circumstances, it did not seem possible to the Tribunal to hold Saint Vincent and the Grenadines responsible for the fact that a bond had not been posted.
For the above reasons, the Tribunal found that the allegations made by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were well founded and that, consequently, Guinea had to release promptly the M/V Saiga and the members of its crew currently detained.
The Tribunal decided that the release should be upon the posting of a security, consisting of the amount of gasoil discharged from the M/V Saiga and the amount of 400,000 USD.