Argentina's Joint Maritime Command (JMC) has denounced the presence of some 431 foreign boats near the country's South Atlantic territorial waters limit, it was reported. Around 80% of the vessels were said to be of Chinese origin.
The newly-created task force is patrolling the area 24 hours a day, under the jurisdiction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces.
The potentially unwanted ships were detected to be off Comodoro Rivadavia, 201 miles from the shore. In other words, one mile short of trespassing into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in which Argentina exercises sovereign rights.
The JMC also reported 417 of the foreign ships are fishing boats, while the rest support them from a logistics angle. The presence of foreign vessels increases between December and May in the South Atlantic, the JMC added.
“A cyclical migratory movement of foreign fishing fleets is perceived,” JMC Chief Commodore Pablo Varela told Buenos Aires' daily La Nación.
Many of the boats detected between March and May north of the Falkland Islands benefit from permits granted by FIG, which Argentine does not recognize. However, the Chinese fleet does not operate in that area, while many Taiwanese units do, La Nación reported.
“The control of fishing at mile 201 is not the only task of the Joint Maritime Command. Strategic vigilance makes it possible to detect anomalies that affect national interests in maritime and river spaces and provides the necessary strategic alert in the event of a possible threat,” Varela explained.
In addition to operations at the Navy headquarters in Buenos Aires, a permanent team of 15 people is assisted by on-site operatives who mount round the clock guard as instructed by the JMC, which was created in February 2021 by then Defense Minister Agustín Rossi. Current Minister Jorge Taiana has upheld this policy.
“We are reinforcing our operational capabilities for better patrolling of the EEZ and the area of maritime interests; care of renewable and non-renewable resources and compliance with international commitments,” Taiana said. He added that Argentina's interests include the bases in Antarctica.
In October 2021, an agreement was signed between the Ministries of Defense and Security to alternately send ships of the Navy and the Coast Guard (Prefectura) off to patrol the South Atlantic, thus handling operations in a more coordinated manner than ever before.
On January 15, the ocean patrol vessel (OPV) ARA Piedrabuena set sail. In addition to the usual Navy officers, it features a Coast Guard attaché and a technical consultant from the Undersecretary of Fisheries to strengthen coordination between the different agencies, La Nación explained.
(Source: La Nación)