Argentina bars entry to two Bermuda-flagged ships after they visit Falklands

The Star Princess, pictured in 2003, was one of two cruise liners denied entry to a port in Argentina on Monday.

Story highlights

  • Incidents occurred Monday in Tierra del Fuego province
  • Two ships were denied entry to the port of Ushuaia
  • Report: Argentina cites law barring ships sailing under British colony flags
  • A dispute between Argentina and Great Britain over the Falklands goes back decades

Authorities in Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province denied entry Monday to two cruise liners that were seeking to dock in the southern port of Ushuaia, in incidents linked to the political dispute over the Falkland Islands.

The government was applying a provincial law barring ships traveling under British colony flags from docking at the port, said the state-run Telam news agency. Both ships were registered in Bermuda, a British territory.

One of the ships -- the Star Princess -- departed Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 18 on a 14-night South America cruise.

"Because the ship had previously called at Stanley, it was denied entry to Ushuaia," said Julie Benson, a spokeswoman for Carnival Corp. She was referring to the port city in the Falkland Islands, which are referred to in Argentina as Las Malvinas.

"We are extremely disappointed about this alteration of the cruise itinerary, and are refunding the cost of shore excursions purchased by our passengers," she said in an e-mail. The ship is continuing to its next scheduled port of call, Punta Arenas, Chile.

The 289-meter (nearly 950-foot) luxury liner, which has a capacity of 2,600 passengers, had docked in Ushuaia several times in recent years, she said.

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The P&O cruise liner Adonia, which is on a South American tour from Southampton, England, with an almost entirely British contingent of passengers, got a similar reception on Monday. The ship "was this morning refused permission for its scheduled docking in the Argentinian port of Ushuaia by the local mayor on the grounds that it had visited the Falklands Islands two days before," said CNN contributor Robin Oakley, who was aboard the Adonis as a lecturer.

Both P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises are Carnival Corporation cruise brands.

The law cited was passed last August and refers to ships that carry out "work related to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, or to military vessels, within the ambit of the basin of the Malvinas Islands on the Argentinean continental platform," Telam reported.

The head of the province's port authority, Alejandro Berola, said that the decision to turn away the ships was made following "express instructions" from Gov. Fabiana Rios, the news agency said.

Ship authorities were informed of the decision Monday morning as they sailed through the Beagle Canal in front of the Chilean city of Port Williams.

Last month, the Star Princess was denied entry into the Port of Stanley when 74 passengers and crew out of a total of 3,652 had gotten sick after the liner stopped in Ushuaia. The Falklands' authorities cited the illnesses as the reason for the denial.

The president of the tourism board of Usuaia, Marcelo Lieti, said Monday's incident "had nothing to do with the Malvinas subject," according to Telam.

"It's necessary to treat the question with much care," he said. "We all defend Malvinas, but the tourist ships have nothing to do with the request for sovereignty," he told Radio Provincia of Ushuaia.

In 1982, after Argentina invaded the islands, it fought -- and lost -- a two-month undeclared war with Britain. Still, Argentina continues to press its claim to the islands, which are home to more than 3,000 people, most of them of British descent.

In Buenos Aires, a group of intellectuals expressed unhappiness with the way the Argentine government is handling the matter of the sovereignty of the Malvinas.

"The policy that the government is carrying out, in reality, is distancing us from the Malvinas instead of getting us nearer," said Jorge Latana, a journalist who has proposed greater cultural integration with the islands' inhabitants. "Return to before 1982. In Argentina, it is very odd the way one thinks about Malvinas, because the public thinks of it as if no one lived there. It is like a thing of magical thought; that one day we take it and it will be ours. And that is not real."

Santiago Kovadloff, a philosopher, said the incident has nothing to do with sweeping away the British culture that is pervasive in the Falklands. "They have the right to determine what they want to be. It's not for us to impose a culture they don't want."

Latana said that Argentina was being inconsistent. The country contains "a mountain of English businesses" that are exploiting the country's natural resources. "And they are sending money out of the country. In that sense, the government is speaking out both sides of its mouth. On one hand it is attacking England through the Malvinas and on the other it is favoring some businesses to exploit minerals. It's a policy that is half schizophrenic."