UPDATE 2-Detained Argentine naval ship leaves Ghana

Reuters Middle East

* Military training vessel held over debt dispute

* U.N. court cleared its release on Saturday

* Creditors claim they are owed $300 million

(Updates with comment from Argentine president, details)

ACCRA, Dec 19 (Reuters) - An Argentine naval vessel detained

in Ghana at the request of a hedge fund seeking payment on

defaulted government bonds left the West African country on

Wednesday, a port official said.

The ARA Libertad, a tall sailing ship used for training, was

detained on a court order obtained by NML Capital Ltd, which

claims it is owed $300 million resulting Argentina's debt

default in 2002.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled on

Saturday that Ghana should release the ship after Argentina

argued that a U.N. Convention on the law gives warships immunity

from civil claims when they dock at foreign ports.

The Argentine ship was detained in the port of Tema, Ghana

on Oct. 2.

"The boat has just set sail after supplies (arrived)," Jacob

Kwabla Adokor, the director of the Tema port, told Reuters.

"Everything went smoothly. The ropes came off 20 minutes ago."

A Reuters witness watched from a distance as the ship glided

away from its berth in the late afternoon, its masts and colours

visible above the roofs of surrounding buildings.

A plane arrived in Ghana from Buenos Aires, Argentina's

capital, earlier in the day carrying 98 sailors to replace the

326 crew members who evacuated the detained ship in October,

leaving behind only a skeleton crew for essential maintenance.

The Libertad is due to arrive in the Argentine seaside

resort of Mar del Plata on Jan. 9, at the height of the southern

hemisphere summer vacation season.

"There will be a lot of tourists and they'll be able to

visit the ship, which has become a symbol of sovereignty and

national dignity," Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez said

in a speech late on Tuesday.

"Holdout" creditors including NML have won several billion

dollars in damages in U.S. courts over Argentina's $100 billion

debt default. But they have struggled to collect since most

Argentine assets abroad are protected by sovereign immunity


These creditors recently won a U.S. court ruling ordering

Argentina to pay $1.3 billion to NML and other sovereign

bondholders who shunned debt restructuring deals in 2005 and

2010. The court decision was halted pending appeal.

The Libertad was visiting Ghana as part of a west African

tour and was due to sail on to Angola when it was detained.

Argentina's Defence Ministry initially filed a motion

contesting the detention claiming sovereign immunity for the

military vessel, but a court in Ghana's capital of Accra upheld

the seizure as legal.

Argentina's government has consistently rejected claims for

debt repayment by NML and other hedge funds, calling them

"vulture funds."

(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo and; Hilary Burke. Writing by Joe

Bavier.; Editing by Ruth Pitchford and Christopher Wilson)

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