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19.02.2009 Regional News

Foreign oil tanker arrested in Sekondi… on orders of High Court

By Bismark Bebli - Ghanaian Chronicle

REPORTS REACHING The Chronicle from Takoradi in the Western Region suggest that a large oil tanker belonging to a foreign shipping Company, Tsakos Shipping and Trading Limited, has been detained for non-compliance of a Ghanaian court's order to pay consultancy fees due a Ghanaian company, Inter-Afrique Holdings Ltd.

Tsakos Shipping and Trading is the UK-based unit of the Greek-owned Tsakos Group, with its head office in Greece. The vessel, M/T Aramis with a Liberian Flag, was arrested over the weekend at Aboadze near Sekondi.

According to our information, the arrest of the M/T Aramis, which carries crude oil to Volta River Authority (VRA), came in the wake of the failure of Tsakos to pay debts owed to Inter-Afrique, as ruled by the Fast Track Court in Accra, since 18th June, 2005.

Efforts by the Counsel for the plaintiff, Nana Asante Bediatuo, to retrieve an amount of US$230,000.00 from Tsakos, which currently operates shipping contracts for both VRA and Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), hit a snag even though the appeal filed by the defendants was dismissed by the Appeal Court.

Subsequently, the Plaintiff in their attempt to collect the amounts due them, applied through their counsel for an order of arrest and detention because of the impunity with which the Defendant, Tsakos, has been acting which was granted.

In a letter of order of arrest and detention issued under the instructions of Justice S.K.A Asiedu and signed by Mr. Rexford Gyimah, the registrar on February 9, this year, the court stated that “The Vessel M/T Aramis berthing at the VRA facility at the Aboadze be arrested and detained. The Captain, Chief Engineers and Crew hand over their seafarer's documents and passports to the Takoradi Naval Commander.”

In addition, the court averred that “The bunkers of the said Vessel be attached. Leave is granted for the service of this order.” Based upon this order, the vessel was apprehended.

Nana Asante Bediatuo, the counsel for the plaintiff, Inter Afrique Holding Limited, took the action to get the foreign based company to respect the courts of the land.

The plaintiff, in their affidavit, stated that the defendant, Tsakos Shipping Limited, defaulted in the payment of commissions due to the Plaintiff, which led to the filing of the instant suit against the company, adding that the defendant operates in a jurisdiction which does not have reciprocity of enforcement of judgments of a court of law in Ghana.

According to the plaintiff, instead of the defendant conforming to the Court's judgment, the plaintiff continues to be deprived of the fruits of its judgment.

The Defendant has continued to use endless delay tactics to avoid paying the Judgment debt. Several appeals and applications lodged by the Defendants had all been dismissed by the Courts.

“This is a deliberate strategy by the defendant to have their contract run its course before the determination of the Appeal in order to avoid paying any judgment debt."

Some staff of the VRA at Aboadze have raised serious concern about a possible shortage of fuel to power the Aboadze thermal plant if this matter is not quickly resolved.

Sources within the working group hinted that if the Tsakos Company failed to pay this debt and the tanker remains under arrest for even a few more days, it could cripple the operations of VRA and eventually lead to load shedding and blackouts.

Some even wonder why the government officials could not engage indigenous Ghanaian companies to manage the shipment of crude oil to VRA and TOR, instead of entrusting everything into the hands of foreign-based companies.

Meanwhile sources at the Takoradi Naval based have confirmed that following the arrest and detention of the Tsakos vessel, a writ of "Fi-Fa", issued by the High Court, has been attached to the MT Aramis. This means the vessel could be sold off by auction in order to pay the outstanding judgment debt to the Plaintiff