by Des Ryan
Tall ships of today are known to have adventurous lives, but not many of them are held hostage in a foreign country along with all their crew and students. Argentinian tall ship Libertad has just been freed after two months held hostage by Ghana.
ARA Libertad, held hostage in the port of Tema, Ghana
In an extraordinary turn of events, Paul Singer, American hedge fund manager, had succeeded in a move to get some hope of having a $1.3 billion debt from Argentina repaid by convincing a Ghanian court take hostage the 100m ARA Libertad ('Liberty'), Argentina's tall ship, when it called into Ghana while on a good will tour with a full crew including many students (See http://www.sail-world.com/CruisingAus/Argentinian-tall-ship-held-hostage-by-Ghana/104143!Sail-World_story).
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 when Ghanaian authorities took control of the ship and it had been impounded ever since.
Despite the estimated $50,000 per day it was being charged in mooring fees, Argentina was still refusing to pay its ten-year-old debts to what it calls a 'Vulture Fund'.
However, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea last Saturday ordered Ghana to 'free the Argentine warship Libertat unconditionally and ensure the departure of the ship and its crew', according to a statement by the state news agency.
'The Libertad will now set sail on December 22, and is expected to arrive back in Argentina on January 9,' said Antonio Puriceli, the Defense Minister at a press conference, adding that the Argentinian military will send 98 sailors to Ghana for reinforcements.
A Ghanaian judge had previously refused Argentina's request to release the tall ship, as the South American country was refusing to pay the US$20 million as bail to free the ship and is crew.
One can only hope that Ghanaian authorities will accede to the court order, in spite of its own court's ruling, or there could be an interesting confrontation to watch on the wharves of Tema on December 22.