Argentina confirmed on Monday that most of the crew from the training frigate ARA Libertad retained in Ghana is being evacuated and should arrive in Buenos Aires Wednesday night, in a chartered commercial aircraft. Only a small group of officers and 44 crew members will remain on the impounded vessel for maintenance work.
The Argentine Foreign ministry communiqué said that “as it was announced on Saturday, it has been decided to evacuate 281 crew members leaving on board the frigate the captain and a group of 44 sailors to guarantee the caretaking during its illegal seizure. All foreigners on board participating of the instruction trip will also be evacuated in the same operation”
“The seamen will be arriving to Buenos Aires next Wednesday at 20:00 hours in a chartered flight of Air France which was especially contracted to complete the evacuation”.
Further on the communiqué states that the decision to evacuate was made “in response to a ruling by a Ghanaian court, which not only violated international law, but also risked the safety of the crew by denying them the necessary provisions for a docked ship.”
Finally all expenses that result from the illegal detention of the Libertad will be included in the lawsuit that Argentina will file before international organizations.
According to sources, the Ghanaian judge who ordered the impounding also decided to ban the ship from refuelling, assuring it would only lift his decision if Argentina was willing to establish negotiations with the plaintiffs who are holders of Argentine sovereign bonds valued at 370 million dollars and for which they demand full face value payment of principal and interests.
Argentina declared a massive default in 2002/02 of almost 95bn dollars. However between 2005 and 2010 it managed to restructure the debt with a significant shave, but 7% holdouts remain. Some of those bonds are in the hands of funds, which Argentina describes as ‘vulture funds’ and have the sufficient logistics and intelligence to try and recover the value of the bonds or assets, as happened with the impounding of ARA Libertad in an African port.
Last week the NML-Capital fund said it was willing to release the vessel if Argentina deposits a bail of 20 million dollars. In a touch of irony it also offered to pick up the bill for the return of the frigate’s crew to Argentina.