Update 10 May 2023 In Jalla and another v Shell International Trading and Shipping Company and another  UKSC 16, the Supreme Court has now held that the spill was a one-off event, not a continuing nuisance, and therefore time-barred under applicable Nigerian law.
Jalla & Anor v Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Ltd & Anor  EWHC 424 (TCC) is a follow-up of earlier, procedural (including jurisdictional) issues which I discuss here.
- The 2011 Bonga Spill emanated from an offshore floating production, storage and off-loading facility (“the Bonga FPSO”), located approximately 120 kilometres off the Nigerian coastline of Bayelsa State and Delta State within the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone. The Spill was caused by a rupture of one of the pipelines connecting the Bonga FPSO to a single point mooring system (“SPM”), both of which were operated and controlled by one of the defendants, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd (“SNEPCo”), a Nigerian company regulated by the Nigerian governmental authorities. The technical manager of the vessel, the MV Northia, that was loading from the Bonga FPSO at the time of the spill was another defendant, Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Ltd, (“STASCO”), a company domiciled and registered in the UK.
Anchor defendant is STASCO. SNEPCo is co-defendant.
The High Court had determined that the claims for damage caused by the Spill could not constitute a continuing nuisance until any pollution was remedied, so as to extend the limitation period and defeat the defendants’ limitation defence; it held claimants each had a single claim in nuisance in respect of any damage caused by the Bonga Spill, such cause of action accruing when their land and/or water supplies were first impacted by the oil. Claimants’ appeal against that part of the judgment as I reported earlier was dismissed by the Court of Appeal  EWCA Civ 63 and this “Continuing Nuisance Appeal” is now being appealed to the Supreme Court.
 Current case is to determine the date on which actionable damage, if any, was suffered by the claimants as a result of the Bonga Spill, for the purpose of deciding whether any of the claims against the anchor defendant, STASCO, are statute-barred for limitation and, therefore, whether E&W courts have jurisdiction to determine the substantive claims.
 Stuart-Smith J (as the then was), alongside the jurisdictional challenges, had further held that the High Court had no discretion to allow, or would refuse, amendment of the claim form to join STASCO and the amendment to add allegations against STASCO, if and to the extent that the applications were made after the expiry of the relevant limitation period. The allegations against STASCO in respect of its responsibility for the were deemed by the court not to have been made until 2 March 2020.
The issue of jurisdiction as against SNEPCo, a Nigerian corporation, is dependent on there being a valid claim against STASCO, a UK corporation. The court rejected other jurisdictional challenges made by the defendants but was unable to finally dispose of the challenge to jurisdiction because it was subject to the outstanding issue as to whether the claims against STASCO were statute-barred. If the claims against STASCO, the anchor defendant, were statute-barred, there would be no basis on which service out of the jurisdiction against SNEPCo could be permitted and the court would have no jurisdiction to determine any of the claims.
Given the significance of the limitation issue, the court ordered that there should be a trial of preliminary issues to determine in respect of all claimants the date on which they suffered damage, the appropriate limitation period and limitation as a defence to the claims.
Parties agree that Nigerian Law applies to the claims relating to the spill, including the limitation period applicable to the claims (the case therefore does not engage with the outstanding issue of the treatment of limitation under Rome II, discussed most recently in Bravo v Amerisur Resources (Putumayo Group Litigation). The issue between the parties is whether the applicable limitation period is six years, as submitted by the claimants, or five years, as submitted by the defendants.
O’Farrell J holds that given the date of damage, none of the claims in these proceedings was made against STASCO within any applicable limitation period. Obiter, she holds on the limitation issue anyway.
The relevant law that applies in Nigeria is the (English) Limitation of Actions Act 1623 which provides for a limitation period of six years for claims that would amount to tortious claims. The National Assembly for the Nigerian Federation has not enacted any general limitation statute and no such provision is made in the Constitution. The State legislature for Delta State however has enacted a general limitation statute. Section 18 of the Limitation Law of Delta State 2006 (“the Delta State Limitation Law”) provides for a limitation period of five years for claims in tort.
 Claimants’ position is that the limitation period applicable to their claims is the six-year period provided for by the 1623 Act. In the absence of specific federal legislation on this issue, they argue this residual provision is the limitation law generally applicable in Nigeria, including at a federal level, by virtue of section 32(1) of the Interpretation Act 1964; further, that the Delta State Limitation Law is inapplicable in the Federal High Court; only federal legislation can apply, irrespective of where the Federal High Court sits.
Further, , claimants argue they are entitled by Article 7 Rome II to choose the law applicable in the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (“EEZ”) as the lex causae governing their claims for environmental damage, as the country where the event giving rise to the damage occurred, the locus delicti commissi, Handlungsort. The EEZ falls within the control of the Federal Government of Nigeria; as such, it would be subject to the Nigerian Federal law of torts and the residual 1623 Act limitation period.
 Defendants’ position is that the limitation period applicable to the claims is the five-year period provided for by the Delta State Limitation Law. The relevant Federal High Court for the claims would be the Federal High Court in Delta State, as the place where the alleged damage occurred. They suggest Nigerian authorities on limitation confirm that if a local limitation law exists in the relevant state, that law applies to the claim; and the limitation statute of each state is territorial in scope. On that basis, the Delta State Limitation Law applies to any action brought in the territorial area of Delta State, including the Federal High Court in Delta State.
 viz A7 Rome II they argue the Nigerian EEZ is not a “country” for the purpose of Article 25(1) Rome II [‘“Where a State comprises several territorial units, each of which has its own rules of law in respect of non-contractual obligations, each territorial unit shall be considered as a country for the purposes of identifying the law applicable under this Regulation”], that it has no applicable limitation law and that it would not override the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to determine the claims in these proceedings.
The judge  ff holds the country in which the alleged damage occurred is Delta State, making the law of Delta State the default choice of law under Article 4(1) Rome II; that although the claims are for environmental damage, and the event giving rise to the alleged damage occurred at the FPSO within the Nigerian EEZ, the EEZ is not a country within the meaning or A25(1): Nigeria is a Federation with 36 states plus the FCT of Abuja. The EEZ is not a territorial unit and does not comprise one of those states; and the EEZ does not have its own rules of law in respect of non-contractual obligations.
The remainder of the judgment deals with issues of proof of foreign customary law.