FALKLAND ISLANDS: BRITAIN CONDEMNS LUXURY CRUISE ‘INTIMIDATION’

London Telegraph on January 4, 2013, reported that growing numbers of luxury cruise ships travelling to Buenos Aires are being “intimidated” by anti-Falklands protests and disruptions amid an escalation of the diplomatic row between Britain and Argentina. Excerpts below:

The British government is aware of at least a dozen incidents on international liners or cruise liner offices over the past two months, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

Ministers today condemned the unprecedented wave of “blackmail” and “intimidation” on innocent passenger liners caught up Falkland Islands row and called on militants to “allow cruise ships to travel without threats or hindrance”.

“We condemn unequivocally any efforts to intimidate companies from pursuing their lawful business,” said Hugo Swire, the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs minister.

“The British government deeply regrets that elements in Argentina have recently taken action aimed at disrupting cruise ships that visit the Falklands.”

Amid growing anger in London, the British Government last month “formally summoned” the Argentine Ambassador Alicia Castro to protest against the incidents.

Today, a fresh wave of fresh protests was launched by Argentine nationalists at two cruise liners docked in Buenos Aires after visits to the South Atlantic islands, known in Spanish as Las Malvinas.

Protesters accused the Star Princess and the Seabourn Sojourn of stopping at provinces across the region, including the Falkland Islands and Tierra del Fuego, in violation of a provincial law.

The so-called “Gaucho Rivero” law is active in five provinces, including Tierra del Fuego, whose capital is Ushuaia, and prohibits British ships involved in the “exploitation of natural resources” around the Falklands from docking.

Activists insist it should also apply to cruise liners.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO), officials have been made aware of at least 12 incidents of disruption or intimation on cruise liners, and almost 10,000 passengers, since mid November.

They include officials refusing permission entry Argentine ports or delaying ships, masked militants attacking and ransacking offices of shipping companies and scheduled cruise itineraries either altered, or abandoned, to appease locals.

Whitehall officials have been in urgent talks with industry leaders across the world who shared concerns about the “illegitimate efforts to interfere with shipping and tourism in the region”.

The FCO has accused Argentina of trying “to strangle” the islands’ economy, which earns £10m from cruise ship tourism and employs a quarter of the working population.

Local tourism operators have also spoken out on the impact the cancellations could have on the local economy.

Penny Guy, from the Passenger Shipping Association, said passenger and crew safety was paramount and that officials would change plans if “difficulties in certain countries” arose.

“We are very disappointed that cruise ships are being affected either through visiting the Falkland Islands or travelling to Argentina,” she said.

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