Maritime Matter of the Week

Luxury Cruise Liner Blocked From Leaving Argentine Port Due To Protests In The Falkland Islands


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When it comes to maintaining the safety of cruise ship passengers, our maritime lawyers know that sometimes, certain measures have to be taken. Today, an accident could have taken place when a luxury cruise liner with up to 450 passengers was prevented from leaving an Argentine port due to a protest in the Falkland Islands. The vessel, the Seabourn Sojourn, was blocked by Argentine port workers who wanted to prevent the ship sailing to the disputed islands, but after a delay of seven hours, the vessel was allowed to leave the port at Buenos Aires. However, union leaders demanded that the vessel’s captain pledge not to visit the Falklands before allowing the ship to set sail.

The Sojourn was scheduled to leave yesterday at 5 p.m. local time on a 15-day cruise around Patagonia, calling on the Falkland Islands and ending in Valparaiso, Chile. According to Seabourn’s UK marketing director, Carly Perkins, “The ship has been able to resume its schedule. It was delayed but it has now left Buenos Aires.”

The ship was scheduled to make an eight-hour call on the Falklands’ capital Port Stanley. Passengers would have the option of going on a four-hour tour around the battlefields from the 1982 War, including Mount Tumbledown and Mount Longdon. However, workers from the United Maritime Workers Union (SOMU) prevented the ship from setting sail. The union was backed by the radical Malvinas Resistance group, which demands the islands, known as Las Malvinas in South America, be returned to Argentina.

Tony Lopez, spokesman for the group, said the Sojourn would not be allowed to set sail until it had confirmed it would not sail to the archipelago, which is located 300 miles off the coast of Argentina. According to Lopez, the cruise vessel is “a pirate ship” and would be violating the Gaucho Rivero Law, designed to stop British ships from “plundering” Argentine resources in the area. The Gaucho Rivero Law, passed last August, was named after an Argentine worker who led a mutiny against the British in the Falklands in 1833. The law was originally expected to be used only against British military vessels and ships involved in fishing and oil exploration.

The incident in Buenos Aires began a day after Argentina’s ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, was summoned to the Foreign Office regarding allegations of harassment to British ships and shipping companies. FCO defense and intelligence director, Robert Hannigan, called the ambassador in after a number of men in masks raided the Buenos Aires offices of a cruise company offering sailings to the Falklands on November 19. The Foreign Office called the attack “a violent act of intimidation.”

The Falkland incident is not the first to involve Argentinean protests. In February, country officials prevented three cruise ships from docking in the southern port city of Ushuaia following a protest by war veterans; a move that was called “economic suicide” at the time.

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