Ghana’s government is expected to submit a petition on Monday to cut all water, electricity and fuel supply to Argentina’s navy training ARA Libertad frigate after armed sailors prevented an operation led by local port authorities, GPHA, who wanted to relocate the ship to another berth, spokesmen of Tema Port said.
The frigate has been seized under an impound order since early October (42 days) on request of the US investment fund NML-Capital.
Argentina’s Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli had previously indicated that Argentine armed sailors prevented on Wednesday the relocation of the frigate by officials from the port of Tema (Ghana’s most important) allegedly supported by a court resolution in which the plaintiffs argued that the vessel was occupying very valuable docking space in an already congested terminal.
According to the Argentine Defence ministry Friday release “the Ghanaian Port Authority sought to assault the ship and relocate it by force, without a court order endorsing such behaviour”.
Apparently the Tema port authorities turned up with a pier crew, two tugs and a crane ready to move the frigate. But following on orders from Buenos Aires, based on the counsel from the Ghana solicitors defending Argentina’s case, they were told not to move and resist any attempts of such actions.
Port authorities apparently did have a court order for moving the vessel from pier 11 to pier 6, a kilometre away, but the decision was appealed by Argentina’s solicitor Kizituo Beyuo from Fountain Chambers who wrote a letter to the GPHA indicating that the High Court had granted a seven day extension.
“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 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.
According to Buenos Aires media reports the Argentine Defence ministry is considering replacing the current crew because of the incident, but there are also growing questions about what really happened last Wednesday and if the Argentine ambassador in Nigeria and concurrent in Ghana, Susana Pataro was allowed on board.
Furthermore the political system is demanding to know why the frigate originally docked in Ghana when Argentina was well aware of the permanent hounding from the so called ‘vulture funds”. Rumours in Congress are that Defence Minister Puricelli will step down once the recovery of the vessel is on track.