Argentine Sailors on board the detained Fragata Libertad threatened to open fire on Ghanaian officials if they attempted to move the ship according to newspaper The Chronicle from Ghana.
In an interview with Argentine paper La Nacíon, director of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) Jacob Kwabla Adorkor confirmed The Chronicle’s report and said that there had been four sailors who had taken out their weapons.
“A rifle doesn’t scare me. But we expected that the Argentines would act professionally not as if we were at war! We didn’t have any weapons or ammo and we just went to talk with them…” he added.
The Chronicle’s investigations at the port revealed that the GPHA’s action was a result of a motion they filed at the High Court, Commercial Division, for the frigate to be shifted from a commercial berth she had been occupying since 2nd October, 2012, when the detention order went into force.
According to the GPHA, berth 11 at the Tema Port receives container vessels, and is considered one of the busiest quays, which is why they wanted Fragata Libertad to be shifted to the nearby berth six, which is not part of the busy zones at the port. Ships would usually pay up USD 60,000 to stay at berth 11.
By 6am on Wednesday, the Port Authority cut off the supply of electricity and water to the Libertad, in preparation for the movement to berth six.
At 6:15am, the Argentines lifted the gangway of the ship and emerged with rifles threatening the port officials.
For hours, the situation remained tense, until the Argentine Ambassador to Nigeria, also responsible for Ghana, arrived at the wharf to seek audience with the port officials to be allowed to get on board.
Her demand was not granted because the GPHA officials, in turn, asked that before the gangway was lowered, the sailors on board lay down their arms.
In the midst of the tense moments, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Eastern Naval Command, Commodore Akoto Bunso, intervened, and at exactly 3:45pm on Wednesday, the gangway was lowered, but as soon the envoy got on board, the sailors lifted it to its former position.
The Ambassador remained on board the detained frigate trying to speak to the armed crew, who only laid down their arms later in the evening, and according to Kwabla Adorkor, “there is no more tension” despite the absence of dialogue between Ghanaians and Argentines.
This is the latest chapter in a conflict that has been on-going for over a month, in which Ghanaian authorities have detained the ship as potential payment to the vulture fund NML Capital, owners of part of Argentina’s debt.