Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The International Tribunal of the Sea in Hamburg has ruled that Ghana must return Argentina’s naval vessel, the ARA Libertad immediately, MercoPress reports.The boat has been impounded since October 2nd, when hedge fund manager Paul Singer got a Ghanaian Court to rule that the boat be detained because of Argentina’s outstanding debt to him, and a number of other hedge fund managers. A bail was set for $20 million.
As the boat languished in the Port of Tema, Argentina had it out with Singer in a New York Courtroom. The country refuses to pay Singer and other plaintiffs $1.3 billion in outstanding sovereign debt that they bought in 2001, citing the fact that, unlike other bondholders, the plaintiffs did not take the opportunity to restructure their debt in 2005 and 2010.
The majority of bondholders accepted a 70 per cent haircut on their investment, but Singer is holding out because he and his fellows want to be paid in full. That’s why he had Argentina’s vessel impounded as collateral, and that’s why Argentina refers to him, and other holdouts as “vulture” funds.
As that case went to an Appeals Court, there was conflict on the ARA Libertad. At one point the 40-plus sailors on the boat drew their guns when Ghanaian port officials tried to force the them to move the boat to a sleepier part of the port.
Argentina filed suit with the International Tribunal of the Sea to get their vessel back in mid November. The Court said that it would decide on the matter by December 15th, and Judge Shunji Jenai’s ruling was firm (from MercoPress):
“Ghana must release with no conditions the frigate, guaranteeing that the vessel, its captain and the crew can leave the port of Tema and ensuring their provision” said the unanimous ruling. …
The U.N. court considered a statement from Argentina that attempts by authorities in Ghana to move the ship “could lead to an escalation” which could lead to “incidents which could endanger life” Judge Yanai said.
The court also considered Argentina’s claim that the ship could not be maintained correctly during its arrest and that the vessel’s safety could so be endangered.
Now there are a few things that need to happen before the boat heads back to Argentina. Both Ghana and Argentina must submit a report on paying their own costs by December 22nd, and the Tribunal will make more decisions about the dispute then.
Meanwhile, the New York Appeals Court will make an additional ruling on the fight between Argentina and bondholders in February.