The case of the seized Argentine naval ship ARA Libertad was heard on Tuesday by a Ghana Commercial Court which will rule on Thursday whether to release the vessel impounded on arrival last week at the Port of Tema, according to the official Ghana News Agency.
Officials of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), which runs Tema Port, seized the ARA Libertad on the orders of a United States court and said they would only release it after a court order to do so. The authority said last week the vessel was kept because of an injunction placed on it for debts owed.
Justice Richard Adjei-Frimpong heard arguments from attorneys of both the creditors and the Argentine government Tuesday and said he will give his ruling Thursday.
This was after it had listened to arguments from counsel representing the NML Capital Limited, a subsidiary of Elliot Management, a New York-based investment fund engaged in the investment of pension funds, and the Republic of Argentina.
NML Capital Limited on October 2 went to the Commercial Division of the Ghana Fast Track High Court in Accra to obtain an interim injunction against the Argentine vessel ARA Libertad, currently in Ghana, with a crew of about 200 on board.
Last week, the court had ordered that the vessel, ARA Libertad should remain at Ghana’s port until the hearing of a writ, which seeks to enforce in Ghana judgments against Argentina issued by the United States District Court and supported by similar judgements in the United Kingdom.
NML Capital on 18 December 2006 was granted a summary judgement by the US District Court for the recovery from Argentina the principal bond of 284 million dollars with respect to 10.25% of Global Bonds due on July 21, 2030, plus interest thereon.
Mr Larry Otoo, who represented Argentina, contended that the vessel was a military warship which was used for military purposes. He told the court that the vessel which was in Ghana at the invitation of the government of Accra, currently had on board over 200 men with nationals from South Africa, Namibia and Morocco.
Mr Otoo noted that under the laws of Ghana, warships were to enjoy immunity and were not to be subjected to seizure. He contended that the order of the court had brought an embarrassment to the country and the Ghana Navy which had lost the benefits of the training for which the ship sailed to Ghana.
He therefore prayed the court to allow the vessel to sail as Argentina was saddled with debt.
Mr Ace Ankomah, counsel for NML Capital Limited, opposed to the motion saying Argentina had the means and the ability to pay debts its owed.
“Argentina’s international reserves or foreign currency liquidity as at August this year was at 45 billion dollars,” he said.
Mr Ankomah noted that if the vessel was allowed to leave the shores of Ghana, it might not recover its debts adding, that was why they asked the defendant to make payment in court as the case was heard.
He noted that the defendants had not been able to show the court the invitation extended by the government of Ghana adding that there was no exception for warships in the case of a contractual waiver. On the men on board the vessel, there were ways by which they could be sent back to their respective countries.
“Although, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea recognises the immunity of warships, that recognition is based on the rules and principles of customary international law, which permits the immunity to be waived, including contracts,” he added.
Madame Susan Partad, the Argentina Ambassador resident in Abuja represented her country, while Ghana’s Foreign Ministry and Attorney General acted as friends of the court.