by Des Ryan
They didn't do anything as dramatic as nail a paper to the mast, but it had the same effect. Paul Singer, American hedge fund manager, succeeded in a move to get some hope of having a $1.3 billion debt from Argentina repaid. He had a Ghanian court take hostage the 100m ARA Libertad ('Liberty'), Argentina's tall ship, when it was silly enough to stay in the one place for too long.
ARA Libertad, held hostage in the port of Tema, Ghana
What was supposed to be a brief stopover in Ghana during a six-month journey to South American, European and African ports turned into a farce on October 03, and it has been impounded ever since, complete with its more than 40 crew members.
Despite the estimated $50,000 per day it is being charged in mooring fees, Argentina is refusing to pay its ten-year-old debts to what it calls a 'Vulture Fund'.
The farce turned into a comic farce when the sailors aboard the ARA Libertad had their water cut off for refusing to move the boat to a less crowded part of the port where they sit.
In a move that Jack Sparrow would have been proud of, they showed their guns when port authorities tried to move them by force.
In a release, Tribunal officials observed they would like Argentina's naval officers and Ghana's authorities to 'refrain from such altercations as it rules on what will happen to the boat.'
Argentina says it will take the issue to an international tribunal if necessary: the frigate, it argues, should have never been seized because it enjoys immunity as a military vessel.
Argentina has refused to pay Singer because he didn't take two chances to restructure his debt in 2001 and 2005. A New York Court, however, has ruled that the country must pay these investors in full by December 15th.
While the legal battle that prompted its seizure raged, the ARA Libertad still languishes in the Ghanaian harbor, and, for the moment, the water is back on.
The court has said that they will come to a decision on December 6th.
We can hardly wait.