Armed sailors on board the detained Argentine ARA Libertad frigate in Ghana threatened to open fire on Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) officials, if they attempted to move the ship from berth 11 to berth six, at the Tema Port, according to reports of “The Chronicle” local newspaper.
The Chronicle's investigations at the port revealed that the GPHA's action was a result of a motion they filed at the High Court, Commercial Division, for the frigate to be shifted from a commercial berth she had been occupying since 2 October 2012, when the detention order went into force.
For hours, the situation remained tense, until the Argentine Ambassador to Nigeria, also responsible for Ghana, Susana Pataro arrived at wharf to seek audience with the port officials to be allowed to get on board, but that did not materialize.
In the midst of the tense moments, the Flag officer Commanding (FOC) Eastern Naval Command, Commodore Akoto Bunso, came and intervened, and on Wednesday mid-afternoon the gangway was lowered, but as soon the envoy got on board, the sailors lifted it to its former position.
The ambassador remained on board the detained frigate trying to speak to the armed crew, who only laid down their arms later in the evening.
According to the GPHA authority, berth 11 at the Tema Port receives container vessels, and is considered one of the busiest quays, and for that matter, wanted her to be shifted to the nearby berth six, which is not part of the busy zones at the port.
However further investigations revealed that on hearing the directive, the managers of the vessel decided that they would not heed the order, and subsequently, their lawyer, Kizituo Beyuo from Fountain Chambers, wrote a letter to the GPHA indicating that the High Court, presided over by His Lordship Adjei-Frimpong, granted the GPHA motion for a variation of the order of injunction, which was granted on 2nd October, 2012.
“The court ordered that the defendant's vessel, Fragata Libertad, currently at berth 11, Tema Port, be moved and kept at berth six. The defendant has since appealed to the Court of Appeal against the decision of His Lordship Adjei-Frimpong.
“By rule 27(3) of the Court of Appeal rules CI 19, there is an automatic stay of execution of the order by His Lordship Adjei-Frimpong for a period of seven days, immediately following the giving of the judgment or decision.
“This letter is to draw your attention to the above provision, in order that you do not take any steps in furtherance the order appealed against, which will render our client's appealed nugatory.”
GPHA head Jacob Kwabla Adorkor, quoted by the Argentine media confirmed the incident lasted from 06:00 in the morning Wednesday to mid afternoon and admitted “we never expected the Argentines to point us with rifles; we expected them to act professionally; this is not a war, we carried no guns or munitions, we only wanted to talk to them”.
Adorkor denied port authorities had cut the electricity supply to the vessel, “they have their own generators” and contrary to reports in Buenos Aires pier six is only one kilometre away inside the port of Tema.
“What concerns us is not ARA Libertad’s debt, we are losing 60.000 dollars a day which other container vessels should be paying for operating in this busy part of the harbour”, added the Ghana official.
From Buenos Aires and Argentine Navy spokesperson said that “the situation is of complete normality. The vessel remains in the same pier from the very first day, October first and is waiting to receive further formal instructions”.
Regarding the incident Rear Admiral Daniel Alberto Martín said the commander of the frigate reported to the Tema port authorities that “the vessel will remain in that pier until it receives further instructions from the Navy for any movement to be made”.