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Tuesday 23 September  

Argentina gives Ghana ship ultimatum

Published on 12 November 2012 - 11:55pm
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Argentina warned Ghana on Monday that it will take the west African nation to court this week if it refuses to free a navy sailing ship held in port over a debt dispute.

"The government of Ghana has until tomorrow, Tuesday (November 13), to order a provisional measure to release the ship," Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman declared at the presidential residence.

Timerman said that unless Ghana abides by Argentina's demand, Buenos Aires will ask the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which is based in Germany, to force Accra's hand.

The standoff over the three-masted Libertad heated up last week when the ship's crew brandished guns to stop Ghanian port authorities from relocating it to a new berth.

Argentina says Tema port authorities cut off electricity and water supplies to the ship.

The navy school ship has been docked at the port of Tema since October 2 under a Ghanaian court order requested by NML Capital, a Cayman Islands investment firm that says Argentina owes it $370 million.

Argentina rescheduled and refinanced much of its debt following an economic crisis and massive default a decade ago, but bonds held by speculative funds such as NML are among its unsettled business.

Tema Port officials had tried Thursday to move the Libertad to a different berth over a court order to clear space for commercial activity, but the sailors pulled out their guns, forcing the officials to abandon the plan.

Argentina's defense ministry said the crew was ordered on deck with their regular weapons to prevent Ghanaian officials from boarding the ship, alleging the Ghanaians did not have a proper court order to do so.

Lawyers acting for Buenos Aires argued that moving the Libertad could prove dangerous as the vessel lacked manpower after more than 280 crew members were evacuated last month.

Argentina also argues that Ghana is barred from boarding the ship under international maritime law.

Tema Port acting director Jacob Kwabla Adorkor told AFP on Sunday that the sailors first sprayed Ghanaian officials with water before pulling out their rifles.

"They pointed guns at us and threatened to shoot if we dare enter the vessel. Consequently, they removed the gangway, preventing us from entering the vessel," he said.

© ANP/AFP
  • Sailors from the Libertad carry boxes up the ship's gangplank in October ...
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