Latin America & Caribbean

Falklands tension: Argentina 'turns away' cruise ships

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands capital
Image caption This April marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War

Two cruise ships carrying almost 3,000 passengers were turned away from an Argentine port, apparently because they had visited the Falklands.

The Adonia and the Star Princess are said to have been prevented from docking at Ushuaia on Monday.

But Argentina's Naval Prefecture said the ships changed their destination and denied they were refused permission to dock at the port off Tierra Del Fuego.

British diplomats in Argentina are trying to clarify what happened.

Tensions have risen recently, as the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war approaches.

Argentina claims ownership of the islands, which it calls the Malvinas, but the UK has rejected calls for talks on the archipelago's sovereignty.

About 3,000 people live on the islands, most of whom are British citizens.

'Not permitted'

P&0 Cruises' ship, the Adonia, and Princess Cruises' vessel, the Star Princess, part of the Carnival company cruise fleet, arrived off the port of Ushuaia, on the country's southern tip, on Monday morning.

A P&0 spokeswoman said: "Following its call at the Falkland Islands on Saturday February 25, the local port authorities have not permitted Adonia to berth at Ushuaia, Argentina, today."

A member of staff at Princess Cruises said the incident would be an issue between the captain and the port authorities.

But a spokesman for Argentina's Naval Prefecture said: "There were no problems with the port authority and there are no problems on board the ships."

Argentinian press reported the incident marked the first time the authorities had enforced a law passed last August that prohibited British ships or vessels partly belonging to British companies docking in Argentina.

Jane Archer, one of the passengers on board the Adonia, told the BBC: "It's simply the fact that we were in the Falklands.

'No inkling'

"They said the fact that we've been there means that we can't come in to Ushuaia.

"I've not heard of anything like this before and I don't think anybody had any inkling at all that this was going to happen."

She said: "Everything was planned, we were all going to be going on excursions from Ushuaia today. I don't think anybody knew anything was going to go wrong, certainly not the captain as far as I'm aware."

The Foreign Office said it was very concerned to hear the two ships had been refused access to Ushuaia.

A spokesman said: "There can be no justification for interference in free and legitimate commerce. British diplomats in Argentina are urgently seeking to clarify the circumstances surrounding this incident."

The FO's travel advice at present reads: "We are currently not advising against travel to Argentine ports, but strongly advise operators to check with local agents before travelling."

Adonia is now sailing towards Punta Arenas in Chile - the next port of call on its 87-night South American cruise.

P&O said the cost of all shore excursions for passengers would be refunded.

The Star Princess is on a 14-night South American cruise which started from Rio de Janeiro on 18 February.

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