Half a million foreign tourists arrive every year to Ushuaia in the extreme south of Argentina attracted by its wild life, numerous marine species and Antarctica which has become the natural magnet and challenge for visitors looking for exotic destinations.
In the high season which extends from November to April state of the art cruise vessels and other sized ships flock to Ushuaia to enjoy the austral pristine scenery. Catamarans daily tours of the Beagle Channel visiting islands with different kinds of sea lions, penguins and sea birds, as well as the world famous lighthouse of "the end of the world" are part of the regular tourism attractions. However the premium for foreigners is a trip to Antarctica, an adventure organized from the country of origin and which "can only be done leaving from the port of Ushuaia", according to the Argentine authorities. "During the 2006/07 season 357 vessels called in Ushuaia, which was more than satisfied local businesses", said Port Captain and Coast Guard officer Pedro Tuhay. Among the Coast Guard duties is to check cruise vessels' conditions, documents and competence of the crew, plus policing the Beagle Channel, safety regulations and monitoring the environment to make sure there's no fuel contamination, said officer Tuhay. "We are also responsible for fisheries patrolling and support of migration authorities. In Ushuaia over 90% of provisions arrive by sea, we therefore have two licensed ports, which is safer, brings costs down, means cheaper freights and more competitiveness at international level". "We have a garrison of 180 for land, fluvial and sea duties such as fisheries patrolling", said Tuhay who revealed that Argentina's Coast Guard in the area is in permanent contact with their Chilean counterpart which includes two annual meetings and regular technical consultation on fisheries and navigation along the Beagle Channel. Ushuaia is the world's most austral port and as such is considered the "gate to Antarctica". Local authorities are planning to expand the port's capacity with one dock for cargo and the other for tourism. "We expect the project to become reality in less than five years making Ushuaia a model port for the rest of the world, with ample infrastructure, deep water access and permanent activity", said Julio Del Val from Tierra del Fuego province Economy Ministry.