A Spanish flagged trawler that operates in Falkland Islands waters and was heading to Montevideo to unload 700 tons of fish was denied “innocent pass” through Argentine waters and had to steam an additional 17 hours at a cost of 7.000 litres of fuel.
The incident was considered “very serious” by Uruguayan agents and chandlers in the port of Montevideo who feel that the aggressive policy of Argentina towards Falklands/Malvinas sea and air contacts will force the Islands to look for alternatives, thus harming long established business with the fishing industry in the South Atlantic.
“Costa do Cabo” finally reached Montevideo where it unloaded 24 containers with 700 tons of fish and immediately left back for the Falklands. In her way up apparently she was denied “innocent pass” through the Argentine EEZ, for not having made the formal application to Buenos Aires authorities with a week of anticipation as indicated in the controversial decree 256.
The vessel therefore was forced to steam in international waters with the additional costs in fuel and time.
Innocent pass according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea refers to ship’s rights to enter and pass through a coastal state’s territorial waters so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state.
Reliable sources in Montevideo said that for the last thirty years Uruguay has become a reliable hub for fishing vessels operating in the South Atlantic which has meant jobs and income from the sale of services and logistic support, “but Argentina’s latest decisions will have an impact on activities, and force the Malvinas people to find other options”.
“We know that Port Stanley is expanding its port and reefer facilities and we shouldn’t be surprised if Montevideo begins loosing business to the Islands. We know that Punta Arenas in the extreme south of Chile has also seen its booming trade with Malvinas virtually frozen because of Argentina’s policies. It is all very disappointing”, said the source.
The latest incident with the fishing vessel denied “innocent pass” comes on top of the ongoing labour dispute with some Spanish vessels that have been forcibly docked in Montevideo, on occasion for months, until the case is solved by Uruguay’s courts.
The Uruguayan parliament and government are addressing the labour dispute issue which has scared many fishing vessels from Montevideo. Spanish speaking crews, mainly from Peru are tempted by Uruguayan unscrupulous solicitors to demand their companies for alleged contract non fulfilments. Vessels are then seized and since the court process can take months, companies usually end up paying “an extortion fee” to end the case.