Ghana authorities have denied the supply of water to the Argentine Navy flagship ARA Libertad impounded and retained in the port of Tema since 2 October and which refuses relocation to a less active pier despite a court order.
“The crew asked on Monday for water and we told them that if they want water they will have to move to where they have been indicated”, said a spokesperson from Tema port authority which is demanding the frigate moves from a very much demanded docking area of an already congested terminal.
“We told them that if they want our port services they will have to move to pier 6. There are no services for them at pier 11 where they are currently docked”, added the spokesperson.
The Argentine navy flagship has generators for electricity but is short in water and Tema officials also warned that if the vessel requests fuel this will also be denied until it complies with the court order.
Last 5 November the Accra Superior Tribunal confirmed a ruling ordering the frigate to move from the current pier since it was impeding normal trade activities in Tema, the African country’s main sea port.
Argentina solicitors in Ghana later managed on appeal ‘a suspension order’ but time is over and from Buenos Aires the argument now is that with only 44 crewmembers and a captain, moving the vessel implies a great risk.
That is why last week when Tema officials moved on the vessel with tugs, a crane and ground crew ready for the operation, the Argentine crew reacted lifting the plank and showing their rifles.
The incident only complicated things and Argentina gave Ghana a deadline for the release of the vessel by Wednesday. If not Argentina will take the case to the UN Law of the Sea Tribunal in Hamburg of which the two countries are signatories.
ARA Libertad was impounded by a Ghana high court on request from a New York court acting for NML Capital, an investment fund holding defaulted Argentine sovereign bonds with face value and interests totalling 370 million dollars.
Argentina refuses to deal with the ‘holdouts’ which it describes as ‘vulture funds’, and likewise refused to deposit a 20 million dollars bail for the release, arguing that military vessels can’t be impounded.
Tema port authorities when asked on the Argentine deadline simply said that they were complying with an order from a competent Ghana court, and “we will have to wait and see what happens”.
The Ghana government has responded to all Argentine political contacts and requests saying that the Judiciary is independent and thus can’t interfere in the litigation.
The government of President Cristina Fernandez also accuses Ghana of ignoring the Vienna Convention for not guaranteeing the immunity of the war vessel, but the Ghana court argues that Argentina dropped its diplomatic sovereignty from the moment it issued sovereign bonds.
In Buenos Aires Defence ministry sources said the Navy was preparing to send a fresh crew to replace the 44 members currently on board.
Likewise a former Argentine Defence minister with three different presidents, Horacio Jaunarena called for ‘rationality’ and compliance with the Ghana court order to relocate the frigate.
“The essential thing is not lose rationality in this entire incident. The Ghana court has ordered the relocation and this does not justify an incident over something non important for the real issue. We have to accept the ruling and we can be sure things are going to run smoothly for Argentina in the international courts”, said Jaunarena.
“All vessels that access a port have local pilots on board. What is not sensible is to accept the court order and then resist, endangering the lives of the crew. The problem is the crew in obeying orders from Buenos Aires but if the high court of Ghana orders relocation, it must be done”, added the former minister and expert in military affairs.
“Showing weapons by Argentine crew members, as was reported is a very serious international incident plus the confrontation with Ghana. We accept the jurisdiction; we must accept its resolutions. Argentina is right: military vessels and not impoundable and precisely because the reason is on her side it must avoid incidents: if Ghana does not solve the issue, then we go to the Hamburg tribunal. I would recommend the President to order the vessel to be relocated and avoid silly incidents”, concluded Jaunarea.