Rules of salvage will apply to the Falklands’ Patrol Vessel’s recovery of the abandoned Argentine yacht La Sanmartiniana, Falkland Islands Government (FIG) Attorney General Peter Judge confirmed to Penguin News on Thursday.
Peter Judge also said if the vessel is unclaimed it will ultimately become the property of the Crown. Asked if FIG will be entitled to a reward commensurate with the value of the yacht if the owners wish it returned, Mr Judge said: “No. We cannot currently quantify the amount but the Government (Receiver of Wreck) will be able to recover all fees and costs and the rules of salvage will also apply.”
La Sanmartiniana was towed to Stanley by Falklands Patrol Vessel Protegat late last week and is now under the jurisdiction of Receiver of Wrecks Mick Floyd. It his job to assemble, “the jigsaw, establish the owner and go down the proper route,” said Mr Floyd. He said it was likely to be a lengthy process.
The yacht which allegedly belongs to the Argentine Peronist political group La Campora headed by Argentine President Cristina Kirchner’s son Maximo Kirchner, was found on October 7, in the Falklands Outer Conservation Zone (FOCZ) 143 miles from the Islands.
Late that day FPV Protegat picked up an unidentified radar target in the south of the FOCZ. On closing on the target it turned out to be the yacht La Sanmartiniana.
The vessel was reported as abandoned on September 17, in the vicinity of Isla de Los Estados (Argentina). It had reportedly suffered mechanical problems The nine crew had been safely transferred to a fishing vessel.
Protegat towed the yacht to Stanley where it was tied up and sealed at the east end of the floating port FIPASS.
A FIG press release noted on October 8: “Leaving it to drift would result in it continuing to be a hazard to navigation and maritime activities in the conservation zone.”
Penguin News was told the following day that the vessel looked dirty and worse for wear but intact, although Mr Floyd said this week that it could not properly be described as seaworthy.
He explained that as Receiver of Wrecks he was obliged to follow the UK’s Merchant Shipping Act 1894 adopted by the Falkland Islands Government.
His objectives under the statutes of the Act comprise the preservation of the property and the restoration of that property to the owners, along with processing information with respect to the wreck.
The yacht is moored safely at the east end of FIPASS, “secured and sealed,” in order to protect the property, and all items of value have been removed and are locked away under Mr Floyd’s control.
It was scheduled that the yacht be examined by a Bio-security Officer and the water inside pumped into containers. Mid week it was still considered unsafe to walk around. Because the vessel was sealed it was unknown whether the yacht captain’s claim of mechanical failure was correct.
Harbour Master Malcolm Jamieson commented that he understood the owners had made some indications that they wished the yacht returned to them. He said: “How and when this happens remains unclear…” and reminded that it was under the jurisdiction of Mr Floyd.
The yacht still belongs to the rightful owners, it is up to them to issue guidance or instructions as to how they would want to have their property returned to them, he
Expanding on his original answer Mr Judge told Penguin News: “In relation to the wreck, the salvage ‘rewards’ and the Receiver’s costs, these will be determined in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 (in its application in the Falkland Islands) and sections 224 and 255 and schedule 11 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 by which the Falkland Islands complies with the International Salvage standards set out in the 1989 International Convention on Salvage.”
“The method of calculation and determination of the level of fees, charges and ‘rewards’ is, unsurprisingly quite complex and I am afraid there is no easy rule of thumb for determining what these will be at the time a vessel is reclaimed (if indeed it is)” said Mr Judge.
Asked if the legal procedure would be costly to FIG, Mr Judge said: “There is no legal procedure in terms of court type proceedings. There is a procedure set out in the legislation which will, if the vessel is claimed, ensure FIG recovers any costs.
If the vessel is unclaimed it will ultimately become the property of the Crown.”
According to the Buenos Aires press last week the vessel had meant to challenge Falklands’ authorities by sailing into the Islands waters, covered in Argentine flags as part of a political stunt a few weeks away from the presidential election on October 25.(PN)