After more than two months of being held in the port of Tema, Ghana, the Argentine frigate “Libertad” was freed following the Ghanaian government's decision to comply with a UN court ruling ordering its immediate release.
The 103-meter-long vessel "ARA Libertad" is a traditionally-rigged sailing ship which serves as a school ship in the Argentine Navy. On October 2, 2012, “Libertad” (Spanish for Freedom) was impounded in the port of Tema, Ghana, by a court ruling on behalf of NML Capital, a subsidiary of U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation. NML Capital claimed a debt of US$ 370 million as a result of Argentina's debt default of 2002, and was seeking payment of US$ 20 million for the release of the vessel. NML was not the original creditor, but bought the debt for "pennies on the dollar" according to Forbes.
In late October, three weeks after the detention of the frigate, 281 crew members were evacuated from Ghana while the captain remained on board with a “skeleton” crew of 43 sailors.
On December 15, the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), based in Hamburg, Germany, ordered the release of the ship, to which the Ghanaian government responded with a promise to overturn the court order retaining the vessel.
The document of the UN Court prescribes: “Ghana shall forthwith and unconditionally release the frigate ARA Libertad, shall ensure that the frigate ARA Libertad, its Commander and crew are able to leave the port of Tema and the maritime areas under the jurisdiction of Ghana, and shall ensure that the frigate ARA Libertad is resupplied to that end.”
The ITLOS gave Ghana a deadline of December 22 to confirm the release and departure of the Argentine ship, and stipulated that the African country facilitates the provisioning of the ship before leaving its territorial waters. On December 19, Argentina sent 98 sailors to Ghana who will bring the ship back to Argentina.
The ship had sailed from Buenos Aires on June 2, 2012 with a crew of over 300 to conduct the annual instruction voyage for the graduating naval cadets. During the voyage, the vessel stayed in Brazil, Surinam, Guyana, Venezuela, Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Senegal before arriving in Ghana.
Cristina Fernandez, Argentina's President, announced that the ship will arrive in the port of Mar del Plata, 400 km south of Buenos Aires, on January 9.