October 22, 2012 / 7:31 PM / 6 years ago

Seized Argentine tall ship's crew to start leaving Ghana

* Training ship seized over defaulted bonds

* Sailors appear to be in good spirits, play soccer, jog

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Sailors on an Argentine naval training vessel detained in Ghana by creditors will begin leaving the country on Tuesday after spending weeks in dockside limbo, a government official said on Monday.

The ARA Libertad, a tall sailing ship with a crew of more than 300, has been detained in Ghana’s port of Tema since Oct. 2 on a court order obtained by NML Capital Ltd, which claims Argentina owes it $300 million in defaulted bonds.

“We are preparing them and most of them will start leaving tomorrow, if they are able to complete their immigration processes,” the government source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

He said most of the remainder of the crew would leave in batches throughout the week.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Saturday ordered 326 sailors on the detained ship to evacuate - leaving just the captain and a core crew - claiming their human rights were violated because a judge had prohibited fuel deliveries required to run plumbing and emergency equipment..

Ghana said on Sunday the crew were free to depart, and NML’s lead lawyer, Ace Ankomah, said it would not stop them from leaving.

The sailors appeared to be in good spirits on Monday as they worked the decks. Some returned from the city with suitcases and packing boxes, a Reuters witness at the port said.

Since the ship’s detention three weeks ago, the crew have often been seen jogging, playing soccer and shopping at local markets.

“Ghana is a nice country, the people are nice, but still, being here doing nothing is different from being home doing nothing,” one of them, a male in his mid-20s told Reuters during a visit to the port’s duty free shop.

Argentina declared a massive sovereign default a decade ago at the height of an economic crisis and now faces a raft of lawsuits in the U.S. courts by so-called holdout bondholders seeking its asset to recoup the defaulted bonds.

Ghana said it turned down demands by Argentina to release the boat because it wanted to follow the rule of law. (Editing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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