The UK is pursuing actions through the European Union, the World Trade Organization and the International Maritime Organization following the latest intimidation incidents from Argentina against the Falkland Islands and which also involve interfering with the free passage of shipping and free trade.
The incidents refer to a violent raid last week in the heart of Buenos Aires by masked thugs against ship agents who were warned that cruise ships would be prevented from berthing at Buenos Aires, Ushuaia and Puerto Madryn unless the Falklands’ leg was cancelled.
In spite of the damage and terrorizing of shipping agents staff no police were on hand to intervene and no subsequent arrests have followed.
The incident prompted two cruise ships, owned by German and Dutch companies (Carnival vessel AIDAcara and Holland America ship Veendam), to cancel scheduled calls on the Falklands, triggering strong Foreign Office complaints. It also led to diplomats from the Argentine embassy in London being summoned to the Foreign Office to receive an angry protest.
“Part of taking the matter to the EU will be so that the issue can be raised with the World Trade Organization because that’s a matter of EU competence” a Foreign Office spokesperson was quoted.
“Our main concern is that we consider it shameful for a large country like Argentina to strangle a group of islands like the Falklands and that the restriction is what we are trying to raise and have addressed”.
“The EU is responsible for external trade relations and we are not the only country to have had problems with Argentina acting against international norms, Spain has had problems too. So we hope that, with our EU partners, we can make a case to the European Commission that Argentina is in breach of its commitments to the WTO” added the spokesperson.
The Foreign Office said it hoped that the travel companies will push back against Argentine pressure since “we don’t want them to drop the Falkland Islands from their itinerary in cruises to Argentina”.
“We have made clear to the Argentine government that we expect it to ensure free passage of shipping, including cruise ships”, underlined the spokesperson.
Earlier this year, a P&O ship, the Adonia (700 pax), and the Carnival’s Star Princess (2.800 pax) were refused entry to Ushuaia on the southern island of Tierra del Fuego because they had visited the Falklands.
The local government of Tierra del Fuego appealed to a flexible interpretation of the ‘Guacho Rivero’ bill which allegedly bars British or convenience flagged cruise vessels from docking in Ushuaia. Both vessels had called at the Falklands a couple of days before.
At the time Carnival affiliate P&O reported Argentine authorities in Ushuaia said the reason for denying access to the cruise vessels was the fact they had been previously in the Falkland Islands.
The Falklands’ weekly ‘Penguin News’ in its last edition (Friday 23 November) under the heading of “Politics or weather: cancelling cruise ship companies offer mixed messages”, had anticipated that the Islands cruise tourism industry “had been receiving mixed messages from cruise companies” as to why two large vessels cancelled their visits.
The Falkland Islands Company Managing Director Roger Spink confessed to have been informed by Carnival that the AIDAcara would not visit the Islands due to loss of income if the vessel was forced to bypass Stanley due to, “heavy weathers, winds and waves”.
However Penguin News also reported that “since the last cruise season when Veendam cancelled a number of visits it had been rumoured locally that the ship’s company was under political pressure from Argentina to cease her trips to the Falklands, and that despite scheduling visits to the Islands for this season there had been no real intention to visit”.