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Detained Argentine naval ship leaves Ghana

Replacement crew of the Argentine naval tall ship ARA Libertad board the ship at Tema harbour in Accra, Dec. 19, 2012. The Argentine naval vessel, detained in Ghana at the request of a hedge fund seeking payment on defaulted government bonds, left the West African country on Wednesday, a port official said.


An Argentine naval vessel detained in Ghana at the request of a hedge fund seeking payment on defaulted government bonds left the West African country on Wednesday, a port official said.

The ARA Libertad, a tall ship used for sail training, was detained on a court order obtained by NML Capital Ltd., which claims it is owed $300-million (U.S.) from Argentina's default in 2002.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled on Saturday that Ghana should release the ship after Argentina argued that the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea gives warships immunity from civil claims when calling in foreign ports. The ship was detained in the port of Tema on Oct. 2.

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"The boat has just set sail after supplies (arrived)," Jacob Kwabla Adokor, the director of the Tema port, told Reuters.

"Everything went smoothly. The ropes came off 20 minutes ago."

A Reuters witness watched from a distance as the ship glided away from the berth in the late afternoon, its masts and colours visible above the roofs of surrounding buildings.

A plane arrived in Ghana from Argentina's capital Buenos Aires earlier in the day carrying crew members to replace the 326 sailors who evacuated the detained ship in October, leaving behind only a skeleton crew for essential maintenance.

Creditors including NML have won several billion dollars in damages in U.S. courts over Argentina's $100-billion default.

Last month creditors won a U.S. court ruling ordering Argentina to pay $1.3-billion to sovereign bond holders who had shunned debt restructuring deals in 2005 and 2010.

But hold-out creditors have struggled to collect on such settlements because most Argentine assets are protected by sovereign immunity laws.

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The Libertad was visiting Ghana as part of a West African tour and was due to sail on to Angola when it was detained.

Argentina's defence ministry initially filed a motion contesting the detention, claiming sovereign immunity for the military vessel, but a court in Ghana's capital Accra upheld the seizure as legal.

Argentina's government has consistently rejected claims for debt repayment by NML and other hedge funds, calling them "vulture funds."

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