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TEMA, Ghana: Argentina prepared yesterday to evacuate more than 300 crew members from a ship stranded in the West African nation of Ghana since a court ordered its seizure nearly three weeks ago over a debt dispute.
The three-masted tall ship, the ARA Libertad, has been stuck in the Tema port near the capital Accra since an October 2 order linked to claims from a Cayman Islands investment fund that says Buenos Aires owes it more than $370m. Buenos Aires ordered on Saturday that the frigate be evacuated immediately, but it was not clear yesterday when the sailors would depart.
Ghana’s deputy foreign minister Chris Kpodo said he was not aware of the evacuation plan, but added that the court order applied only to the ship and not the crew. A senior port official said on condition of anonymity that immigration authorities had not yet given the go ahead to allow the crew to leave the country. It was unclear when such permission would be granted, he said.
“Until we receive that authority from immigration, the crew will still be here,” the official said.
Argentina has threatened to take the case to the United Nations, but Kpodo said Ghana maintained its position that the ship seizure was a court matter and due process must be followed.
The seizure over court claims by NML Capital Limited has caused controversy in the South American country, leading to two top-level resignations as well as a mission to Ghana led by Argentina’s deputy foreign and defence ministers. Buenos Aires said on Saturday it would leave only the Libertad’s captain and a skeleton crew behind with the ship.
The Argentine government also alleged that a Ghanaian judge has prohibited fuel from being supplied to the ship, which would keep it from generating power.
A Ghana court, however, had earlier asked the two sides to reach an agreement on fuel supplies and other logistical issues. Kpodo said he was not aware of the ship being prevented from refuelling.
The crew of 326 are mostly Argentine but also include eight sailors from Uruguay, 15 from Chile and others from Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, South Africa and Venezuela. They have been passing the time with visits to a nearby shopping mall and a beach resort, among other activities.
One of their drivers, who declined to be named, said yesterday that a sailor had been taken to hospital for treatment after injuring his arm while playing football the previous day. AFP