U.N. court orders Ghana to release Argentine naval ship

Reuters News

12/15/2012 9:54:16 AM - Reuters News

HAMBURG (Reuters) - A U.N. court on Saturday ordered the release of an Argentine naval training ship which was detained in Ghana at the request of holders of defaulted Argentine government bonds.

The Argentine navy's tall sailing ship ARA Libertad, a training vessel classed by Argentina as a frigate, was detained in Ghana's port of Tema on October 2 at the request of hedge fund NML Capital Ltd, which says Argentina owes it $300 million on bonds which have been in default since 2002.

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 Argentina argued at the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea that warships have immunity from such claims under international maritime law.

Argentina refers to funds such as NML as "vulture funds" because they buy distressed or defaulted bonds and then sue in international courts to get paid in full.

A skeleton crew was left in charge of the Libertad after nearly 300 crew and naval cadets were flown home to Buenos Aires in October.

(Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by Alison Williams and Jason Webb)