Argentines wielded guns to stop moving of ship in Ghana: report

BUENOS AIRES Fri Nov 9, 2012 4:09pm EST

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The crew aboard an Argentine military training vessel used rifles to keep port authorities in Ghana from boarding the ship to move it to another berth this week, Argentine newspaper La Nacion reported on Friday.

The ARA Libertad tall sailing ship was detained in Ghana's eastern port of Tema on October 2 on a court order obtained by NML Capital Ltd, which claims Argentina owes it $300 million on bonds in default since 2002.

About 300 crew members were evacuated from the ship last month and fewer than 50 sailors remain on the vessel to keep up essential maintenance.

When Ghanaian authorities sought to board the ship on Wednesday to ease port congestion by moving it to another berth, the Argentines dissuaded them by taking up arms.

"Yes, it's true, I was there and they took out rifles and aimed them at us," Jacob Kwabla Adorkor, a Ghanaian port official, told La Nacion, confirming an article published by the Ghanaian newspaper, The Chronicle.

The port authorities had cut water and power supplies to the ship before attempting to move it, The Chronicle reported, adding that the stand-off lasted about four hours.

A spokeswoman at the Argentine Defense Ministry declined to comment on the press reports.

The ministry initially filed a motion contesting the detention, claiming sovereign immunity for the military vessel, but a court in Accra upheld the seizure as legal. Argentina appealed the ruling.

Argentine officials call NML Capital a "vulture fund" because it buys distressed or defaulted debt and then sues in international courts to get paid in full.

Creditors like NML have won several billion dollars in court-awarded damages in the United States, but they have largely been unable to collect because most Argentine assets are protected by sovereign immunity laws.

These creditors are called "holdouts" because they rejected Argentina's 2005 and 2010 debt swaps, through which the country restructured about 93 percent of the roughly $100 billion it defaulted on a decade ago.

President Cristina Fernandez said recently that Argentina will not pay "one dollar to the 'vulture funds.'"

Foreign Minister Hector Timerman launched a diplomatic offensive in New York last month, urging top United Nations officials to pressure Ghana to release the ship.

(Reporting by Guido Nejamkis; Writing by Hilary Burke; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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