Russia Ordered to Pay $6m for Seizing Greenpeace Ship

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has ordered the Russian government to pay the Netherlands $6 million in damages for seizing a Dutch-flagged vessel in international waters. The panel had already ruled that Russia had violated UNCLOS when its agents boarded the ship without the permission of the flag state. Russia maintains that as the ship was within its EEZ, it was within its rights to act to defend its economic interests, even though the vessel was outside Russian territorial seas.

The vessel, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, was involved in a protest in September 2013 in which activists attempted to climb onto Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea, about 30 nm off the Arctic coast of Siberia. The confrontation escalated, and Russian federal security officers boarded the Sunrise, seized the vessel and arrested 30 members of her crew. The activists were held until November, and the vessel was detained until the following June. Greenpeace said that she showed signs of damage when she was returned.

The court awarded the Netherlands compensation of $5.5 million for wrongful arrest and material damage, plus an additional $740,000 for costs incurred by the Dutch government. Greenpeace told Reuters that it expects that the Dutch government will pass on any funds paid in connection with the judgement.

"The Court’s ruling offers ships in international waters the guarantee that a country cannot board them and arrest their crew if it doesn’t have the right to do so," said Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders at the time of the initial ruling. "And that also applies if the crew are exercising the right to protest."

Russia is not a party to UNCLOS, and it boycotted the arbitration proceedings. It has already ignored orders to pay deposits in the case, and it could decide to ignore the outcome altogether, analysts say. It would not be the first nation to turn its back on the court: China has largely ignored last year's Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling against its sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

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