Argentine vessel to be relocated -Court rules

An Accra High Court on Monday ordered the movement of Argentine Vessel, ARA Libertad from its present location to a safer site. According to the court the vessel should be moved from berth eleven to six within the premises of the Ghana Ports Harbours Authority (GPHA). The court made the order following an application put in by the GPHA seeking the leave of the court to move the vessel from its present location at the ports to a safer site as it was causing congestion at the port. The court noted that the counsel for the Republic of Argentina had failed to demonstrate to the court how the movement of the vessel would cause damage to life and property. According to the court presided over by Mr Justice Richard Agyei Frimpong, the government of Ghana and the GPHA were not parties in the matter and the two should not be made to suffer “any economic loss. “The matter is between two foreign states and that government of Ghana and GPHA were not going to benefit from the trial,” the court noted Granting the application for leave, it therefore ordered the GPHA to furnish the court with a written report three days after its orders. The GPHA should also file weekly situational report to enable the court take decision in respect of the future of the vessel. It further ruled that the GPHA was set up by a statute which mandated it to control ports and regulate the use of the ports among others, as such could not interfere in those activities. Mr Asare Darko, Counsel for GPHA noted the Argentine vessel had caused a lot of congestion at the port and more so it was not paying any charges after docking at the port in October this year. According to Mr Asare Darko it was getting to the peak period of the GPHA as Christmas approaches and would prefer the Argentine vessel to be moved from berth eleven to six which was safer. “At the moment the GPHA was turning some vessel away to Ivory Coast as there was not enough space and there was no indication that the litigation between the Argentine and NML Capital Limited was going to end anywhere soon. As at now the country and the ports are losing economically,” he said. He informed the court that the GPHA had the means to move the vessel to safer place but would need the order of the court to do so. Counsel further debunked assertion that there were no personnel to man the vessel adding the GPHA had men who would safely move the vessel. Mr Kizito Beyuo who argued for the Republic of Argentina asserted that movement of the vessel from its present location would cause damage to life and property. Mr Beyuo contended that the vessel did not have personnel to man them stressing that the minimum number of personnel to man the vessel was 145 but were currently left with 12. “There is unjustifiable risk to life and property if the vessel is moved,” Mr Beyuo remarked. Mr Thaddeus Sory who represented NML Capital Limited opposed to the assertion that there were no personnel to man the vessel. On October 11, this year the High Court dismissed a motion by Argentina to set aside orders, which had restrained one of its naval ships from moving or bunkering until further notice. It therefore ordered that the Argentine vessel, ARA Libertad, should remain at Tema Harbour until the hearing of a writ, which sought to enforce in Ghana judgments against Argentina issued by the United States District Court and supported by similar judgments in the United Kingdom. The presiding judge, Mr Justice Richard Agyei Frimpong said Argentina had not demonstrated the basis for which the injunction on the ship should be set aside. He said the order he gave earlier on the movement of the ship, which came to Ghana on a goodwill mission as part of a West African tour, was proper. The Judge said he had given Argentina the option to provide security to the court pending the determination of the case and Argentina had failed to do this. Mr Justice Agyei Frimpong said in Argentina, the fiscal agreements it signed with its creditors, waived its own immunity. On October 9, the court 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 Fast Track High Court in Accra, to obtain an interim injunction against the Argentine ship currently in Ghana, with about 200 men on board. On December 18, 2006, NML Capital was granted a summary judgement by the US District Court for the recovery from Argentina the principal bond of 284,184,632 dollars with respect to 10.25 per cent of Global Bonds due on July 21,2030, plus interest thereon.