The Bahamas flagged cruise vessel ‘Seabourn Sojourn’ that on Thursday berthed at Ushuaia reported to Argentine port authorities it has no plans to visit the Falklands/Malvinas Islands according to press reports from the capital of Argentine Tierra del Fuego.
Apparently the Seattle based Seabourn Cruise Line told the local officials in Ushuaia that “Malvinas are no longer in the company’s tourism itinerary”.
If this is confirmed it would be the third cruise vessel this season that has avoided the Falkland Islands pressed by Argentina and the latest scenes of violence and intimidation in Buenos Aires against local maritime and cruise agents.
The other vessels that missed the Falklands on short notice this season were the Adia Cara and the Veendam.
To these must be added similar incidents in February 2012 when three other cruise vessels, the Star Princess, Adonia and Balmoral were impeded from docking in Ushuaia because of having previously called in the Falklands.
The ‘legal’ base for implementing such measures is the “Gaucho Rivero Bill”, a provincial law voted by the local legislatures from the provinces of Tierra del Fuego, Santa Cruz, Chubut, Rio Negro and Buenos Aires.
The legislation impeding access to the ports of these provinces refers basically to British or convenience flagged vessels involved in the Falklands’ hydrocarbons industry, but local unions, Malvinas veterans’ groups and wet politicians have extended the interpretation to the cruise industry.
The Ushuaia media points out that this has been a very busy week for the port with the arrival of 5.165 visitors from a long list of cruise vessels: Veendam with 1.350 pax; Aida Cara with 1.200; Stella Autralis, 210; Seabourn Sojourn with 450; National Geographic Explorer with 148 and Le Boreal, 264.
Last season 2011/2012, Ushuaia received 82% of the 89 calls of non-Antarctic cruises and 87% of the 205 calls from cruises visiting Antarctica points out the local media. The cruise season in Ushuaia took off with the Via Australis last September 18 and should be over next 7 April with the Veendam. Four days earlier concludes the Antarctic cruise season with the Ushuaia.
Following last week’s violent incidents in Buenos Aires terrorizing maritime and cruise agents operating with the Falklands, the Foreign Office announced it would increase international pressure on Argentina because it would not allow “the Falklands’ economy to be strangled”
“We are very concerned because we have been informed that a cruise company has decided to cancel visits to the Falklands following the intimidation of its agents in Buenos Aires”, said a Foreign Office spokesperson.
“It is shameful that elements from a big country as Argentina are trying to asphyxiate the economy of a small group of islands” said the spokesperson adding that “we will take all the necessary measures to support the people of the Falkland Islands”.
The UK is expected to file claims before the International Maritime Organization, the European Union and by extension the World Trade Organization plus talking with the cruise industry.
The Falkland Islands government made a similar release earlier this week.