For the eighth season, Argentina's Antarctic bases and stations are to be supplied by the Russian polar vessel Vasily Golovnin from Arkadia Ltd. This has been going on since 2007 when the Argentine flagship ice-breaker Almirante Irizar caught fire in the high seas and is still in repairs waiting for the necessary funds.
This season is also late in starting mainly because the outgoing Cristina Fernandez administration did not deposit the necessary funds for the Russian contract. Current defense minister Julio Martinez informed Finance minister Alfonso Prat Gay of the situation and ten days ago two million dollars were deposited in an Arkadia account in Montevideo. Golovnin is now sailing to Buenos Aires, and is expected 17 January.
The outgoing Argentine government last August confirmed Arkadia as the winning bidder for the 2015/16 Antarctica campaign sea and air logistics at a cost of 16.764.000 dollars, which is a bit more than the 14 million of the 2014/15 season.
In effect the Arkadia representatives in Argentina, Trade Baires, are managed by Jose Bertino and his daughter, and have consistently been increasing the price of the Antarctica operation which includes the polar vessel and Kamov 32 heavy duty helicopters.
However some Buenos Aires media are wondering about the escalation of Arkadia costs, when the most expensive item for the whole operation, besides the risks involved, is fuel, which has seen prices tumble because of an oversupply.
The only season since 2007 which the Bertino-Arkadia association lost was in 2012/13. That year competitor Transport & Services with the Dutch vessel Timca were the winners. A raft of complaints and claims were presented by Bertino, including before the anti corruption office, and the following year was all back to normal and polar vessel Golovnin returned.
Last week minister Martinez visited the Tandanor yard where the Irizar is under repairs and allegedly refurbishing. But it's still not certain when the Irizar will be involved in sea trials. Martinez has taken no chances and advanced no date, thus avoiding the unaccomplished pompous (and frustrated) announcements of his three predecessors, Nilda Garré, Arturo Puricelli and Agustín Rossi.
So far according to the books, preparing Irizar to return to sea and Antarctica has demanded over 60 million dollars from the Argentine treasury, to which must be added the annual cost of contracting the suppliers of Argentina's Antarctica program. A sum more than sufficient to have purchased another polar vessel.
This was the ongoing concern and information request to the Cristina Fernandez administration from then lawmaker Julio Martínez, who at the time was chairman of the Defense Committee in the Lower House.