Ghana says it will abide by order to release ship


ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana's government said Sunday it will abide by the U.N. Tribunal's order for the immediate release of an Argentine navy training ship seized two months ago at the request of an American hedge fund.

In a statement signed by Deputy Foreign Minister Chris Kpodo, the government said, "We will carefully consider the Tribunal's Order with a view to ensuring that it is given effect."

The ARA Libertad training ship was impounded Oct. 2 in the port of Tema at the behest of private creditors as collateral for unpaid bonds dating from Argentina's economic crisis a decade ago. Argentina appealed to the U.N.'s International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for the ship's release, arguing that as a warship the Libertad is immune from being seized.

In an expedited ruling by a United Nations court in Germany, the court ordered that Ghana "forthwith and unconditionally release the frigate ARA Libertad" and ensure the ship and its crew can leave Ghanaian waters. It also ordered that the vessel be resupplied as needed.

Ghana's government said it has taken "careful note of the Tribunal's order." In the statement published Sunday, it said the arrest of the Argentine vessel arises from a dispute between Argentina and a private foreign company, adding that the government of Ghana was not a party to that dispute.

"The government of Ghana has always maintained that it does not consider itself to be in dispute with Argentina," the statement said. "Ghana cherishes its democratic credentials with a democratically elected government firmly committed to the rule of law and utmost respect for the separation of powers."

For that reason, it said it was "bound to respect the decision of the High Court in Accra to detain the ARA Libertad." However, it said "Ghana also respects international obligations on the rule of law," and that the country is firmly committed to those obligations.

Ghana's government said as much as it was firmly committed to the country's rule of law and constitution, it was also firmly committed to international obligations and expressed regret that "this matter has come to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea."

Ghana courts ordered the ship held on a claim by Cayman Islands-based NML Capital Ltd. Its owner, American billionaire Paul Singer, leads a group demanding payment in full, plus interest — about $350 million — for dollar-based Argentine bonds bought at fire sale prices after Argentina's 2001-2002 economic collapse forced a sharp devaluation of its currency.

The vast majority of bondholders accepted about 30 cents on the dollar years ago, and that is roughly what the holdouts led by Singer initially paid for the bonds.

The government said it has also taken the necessary measures to preserve the health and safety of the 44 sailors on board the vessel.

"The Ports and Harbors Authority is providing the Argentine sailors access to all necessary facilities at the Port of Tema. The sailors themselves are not in detention and are free to go from the vessel as they please," it said.