ARA Libertad

ARA Libertad

BUENOS AIRES–The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea will deliver its ruling Saturday on a demand by Argentina that Ghana immediately release an Argentine navy training vessel seized in a dispute with creditors.

The ruling will be read at 3 p.m. Hamburg time, or 1400 GMT, the tribunal said in a press release Thursday.

Argentina wants the tribunal to order Ghana to allow “the Argentine warship frigate ARA Libertad to leave the Tema port and the jurisdictional waters of Ghana and to be resupplied to that end,” while Ghana has asked for the case be thrown out and for Argentina to pay its costs, the tribunal said.

Argentina’s naval frigate ARA Libertad set sail in June to visit ports in the South Atlantic, Caribbean, Europe and Africa with 326 people aboard, including guests from Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa. It was scheduled to return to Buenos Aires on Dec. 8.

But on Oct. 2, Ghana commercial court Judge Richard Adjei-Frimpong ordered the 130-meter long ship held at port until Argentina honors U.S. judicial rulings won by Elliott Management Corp.’s NML Capital Ltd. in a dispute over Argentina’s defaulted bonds. Argentina will have to put up a $20 million bond to secure the ship’s release, according to the judge.

The captain of the ARA Libertad and a skeleton crew of 44 remain on the ship. Ghanaian port authorities are complaining that the ship is causing a major backup at the port and needs to be moved away from the main dock. Argentina has resisted all attempts to move the ship.

Argentina says that Ghana violated international law protecting the immunity of warships, and the foreign ministry has demanded indemnity and a public apology.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, formed in 1996, is charged with settling disputes under the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The case at the Hamburg tribunal is only the latest chapter in a long legal saga stemming from Argentina’s massive sovereign default in 2001. About 93% of the defaulted bonds were tendered in 2005 and 2010, but a few holdouts turned their noses up at the deal that offered just 33 cents on the dollar and have dogged Argentina in courts across the globe to collect the full value of the bonds.

(c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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