Tribunal Will Hear Out Argentine Tall Ship Dispute

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November 16, 2012

ARA Libertad

BUENOS AIRES–The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has proposed holding hearings Nov. 29-30 in a dispute between Argentina and Ghana over a seized navy vessel, Argentina’s foreign ministry said in a statement Friday.

Representatives from Argentina, Ghana and the tribunal held a teleconference Friday, two days after Argentina lodged a complaint against Ghana demanding that the West African country immediately release an Argentinenavy training vessel embargoed in a dispute with creditors.

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

The tall ship ARA Libertad set sail in June to visit ports in the South Atlantic, Caribbean, Europe and Africa with 326 people aboard. 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.

Ghana has “violated international law protecting the immunity of warships,” Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said Wednesday. Argentina is demanding that “Ghana provide indemnity for the damages produced and publicly apologize,” Mr. Timerman said.

The captain of the ARA Libertad and a skeleton crew of 44 are marooned on the ship at the port of Tema without electricity and water hookups from shore. Ghanaian port authorities unplugged the services last week, complaining that the ship is causing a major backup at the port and needs to be moved away from the main dock.

Tension has been high since last week, when Argentine sailors drew their guns to prevent port workers from boarding the ship and moving it to a more-remote berth.

The case at the Hamburg tribunal is 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.



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