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Case Study On The Grand Prince Case, 1st April, 2001

Parties to the Case: Plaintiff: Belize v/s Defendant: France
Cited Legislation: United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 - Judgment Bench: International Tribunal for the Law of Sea

Summary of Facts:
The Great Prince was a fishing vessel flying the Belizean flag. The vessel was owned by a Belize corporation but the master and the crew of the vessel was Spanish & Chilean.
In December 2020 The Great Prince had sailed from Durban, South Africa in the international water of southern ocean for fishing.

On the 26th of December 2020, the vessel was arrested by the French surveillance team at the EEZ of Kerguelen Islands and taken to Port-des-Galets, Reunion. At the time of arrest, approximately 18 tonnes of toothfish were found on board.

In January 2001 the French Court confirmed the arrest of Great Prince vessel and stated that release of the vessel would be subject to the payment of a bond declared by French Court.
Belize further took the matter before the Tribuna.

Issues before the Court:
  1. Whether Belize was the flag State of the vessel when it was arrested?
  2. Whether the tribunal has the jurisdiction over this matter?
  3. Whether the French court was failed to comply with the provision of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982?

Contentions by France:
  1. The Kerguelen Islands come under the jurisdiction of France and the vessel fished without any prior authorization or permission from France.
  2. The vessel also failed to announce his entry into the exclusive economic zone of the Kerguelen Islands and to declare some twenty tonnes of fish carried aboard.
  3. Economic exploitation was committed by the Vessel.
  4. The tribunal has no jurisdiction over the matter.
  5. The Belize registration of the vessel had been revoked.

Contentions by the Great Prince Vessel:
  1. The vessel was flying the Belizean flag.
  2. Belize contented that "the vessel was going to be reflagged and registered in Brazil where the vessel had been allocated a fishing license "[1]
  3. They contended that the vessel did not catch any fish inside the Kerguelen exclusive economic zone and that the bond fixed by the court of the first instance at Saint-Paul was not a "reasonable bond or other security" within the meaning of Article 73[2], paragraph 2[3].
  4. The French court was failed to comply with the provision of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982.
  5. France should promptly release the vessel upon the posting of a bond or other security to be determined by the Tribunal.

Judgment:
Tribunal found that it had no jurisdiction under article 292 Para 1[1] of the Convention to hear the Application. In these circumstances, the Tribunal was not in a position to deal with the submissions of the parties on the merits of the Application.

The ratio behind Judgment:
  • The Belize registration of the vessel had been revoked.
  • The Grand Prince does not have Belize "documents" within the meaning of Article 91(2)[1].
  • Tribunal concluded that the documentary evidence submitted by the Applicant failed to establish that Belize was the flag State of the vessel when the Application was made.
[1] Every State shall issue to ships to which it has granted the right to fly its flag documents to that effect.

[1]Where the authorities of a State Party have detained a vessel flying the flag of another State Party and it is alleged that the detaining The state has not complied with the provisions of this Convention for the prompt release of the vessel or its crew upon the posting of a reasonable bond or other financial security, the question of release from detention maybe submitted to any court or tribunal agreed upon by the parties or, failing such agreement within 10 days from the time of detention to a court or tribunal accepted by the detaining State under article 287 or to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, unless the parties otherwise agree.

End-Notes:
  1. https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/54193/Folder%20138.pdf
  2. Enforcement of laws and regulations of the coastal State
  3. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982

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