Spanish jiggers operating in the South Atlantic with Falkland Islands licences complain they are been harassed by the Argentine Navy just a few miles away from the port of Montevideo where they call for discharging, maintenance and bunkering.
According to La Voz de Galicia, since Buenos Aires made it mandatory a couple of years ago that all vessels steaming along Argentine waters to or from the Falklands must request a special authorization, jiggers flying Spanish or Falklands flags have avoided such waters even if it means an extra day steaming.
But now the Argentine navy is demanding that special permit from all vessels sailing along the Uruguayan-Argentine shared River Plate waters zone en route to Montevideo.
“The patrols besides asking for data on the vessel, owners, as well as the name and passport number of the captain and checking to see if we sailed in Malvinas’ waters, they inform us that they have opened a file and we will liable to fines under Decree 256/2010 which refers precisely to the request of a special authorization”, according to several jiggers who met with this surprise.
Although so far there have been no sanctions or fines, the jiggers’ captains have complained to their association Aetinape in Galicia requesting they contact Argentine authorities and insist that their navy does not interfere with the innocent passage of vessels.
Apparently Aetinape has appealed to the Spanish government, the European Commission and even contacted the Argentine embassy.
“We consider we have committed no crime since we are authorized by our government and the government from the Falklands to navigate, catch and operate on board, based on licences awarded by our government and the government of the Falklands, and we are being treated as delinquents by Argentina, constantly under fear of being arrested by their patrols even when we are operating in international waters”.
“The only government that has tried to find a solution to the situation is the Uruguayan government which has proposed we sail along the exclusive seven miles along the canal of access, according to one of the captains that faced the Argentine “sweeping operation”.
But the proposal is not really valid since it generates a safety problem: “it’s too risky because there is not sufficient draft for the larger fishing vessels”, said one of the captains.
But besides why should I be exposed to such a risk and why shouldn’t I exercise the right to innocent passage, something which someone should make to be respected and re-establish”.