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Detained Argentine warship crew threaten to open fire

Armed sailors on board the detained Argentine frigate, ARA LIBERTAD, on Wednesday threatened to open fire on Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) officials, if they attempted to move the ship from berth 11 to berth six, at the Tema Port.

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 October 2, 2012, when the detention order went into force.

According to the Authority, berth 11 at the Tema Port receives container vessels, and is considered one of the busiest quays, and for that matter, wanted her to be shifted to the nearby berth six, which is not part of the busy zones at the port.

Further investigations revealed that on hearing the directive, the managers of the vessel decided that they would not heed the order, and subsequently, their lawyer, Kizituo Beyuo from Fountain Chambers, wrote a letter to the GPHA indicating that the High Court, presided over by His Lordship Adjei-Frimpong, granted the GPHA's motion for a variation of the order of injunction, which was granted on 2nd October, 2012.

"The court ordered that the defendant's vessel, Fragata Libertad, currently at berth 11, Tema Port, be moved and kept at berth six. The defendant has since appealed to the Court of Appeal against the decision of His Lordship Adjei-Frimpong.

"By rule 27(3) of the Court of Appeal rules CI 19, there is an automatic stay of execution of the order by His Lordship Adjei-Frimpong for a period of seven days, immediately following the giving of the judgment or decision.

"This letter is to draw your attention to the above provision, in order that you do not take any steps in furtherance the order appealed against, which will render our client's appeal nugatory."

But, by 0600 hours on Wednesday, the Ports Authority cut off the supply of electricity and water to the frigate, in preparation for the movement to berth six, when the unexpected happened.

At exactly 0615 hours, the Argentines lifted the gangway of the ship and emerged with Self Loading Rifles (SLR), threatening the ports officials, if they attempted to get on to the vessel, through any other means.

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, but that did not materialise.

This is because the GPHA officials, in turn, demanded that before the gangway was lowered, the sailors on board the detained frigate and threatening to shoot must lay down their arms.

In the midst of the tense moments, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Eastern Naval Command, Commodore Akoto Bunso, came and intervened, and at exactly 1545 hours on Wednesday, the gangway was lowered, but as soon the envoy got onboard, 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.

[Source: From John Bediako, Tema, The Chronicle, Ghana, 10Nov12]

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