Argentina bars Carnival ships from docking

USHUAIA, Argentina — Argentina turned away two Carnival Corp. cruise ships on Monday, for the first time invoking a law that bars vessels linked to Britain in a bid to gain leverage in its sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands.

The Star Princess and Adonia ships were refused entry to Argentina's southernmost city of Ushuaia early Monday after stopping at the islands en route to Chile.

The decision was made at 4 a.m. by Tierra del Fuego Gov. Fabiana Rios, an ally of President Cristina Fernandez. His province nominally includes the British territories Argentines claim as Las Malvinas, as well as the South Georgia and South Sandwich islands and their surrounding southern seas.

Turning away the ships meant losing a big payday for Ushuaia. Taxi drivers, tour operators, wildlife guides and restaurant and boutique workers had arranged to work on Monday's Argentine national holiday to cater to the more than 5,000 passengers.

But in a marathon meeting that stretched into early Monday, veterans of Argentina's brief war against Britain for control of the islands in 1982 persuaded the governor to enforce a law passed in September that bans British vessels, ships partly owned by British companies and ships flying flags from British territories from docking in Argentina.


"We have verified that British financial interests own these cruise ships," said Juan Vera, a spokesman for the veterans' group. "We are seeking to hit the Brits where it hurts them most: their money. We're aiming to hurt British financial interests until they return the Malvinas to us."

As for the losses to the local tourism industry, Vera said that wasn't his group's concern.

"The tourism executives who feel affected by this should do things better. We don't have any problems with cruise ships flying the flags of France or other countries," Vera said.

The Star Princess was flying the flag of the Bahamas, a British territory, and is owned by the Miami-based Carnival Corp., which includes British ventures including P&O Cruises, which sails the Adonia out of Southhampton England.

The British foreign office said there was no justification for the action.

"We are very concerned to hear the Adonia and Star Princess have been refused access to the port of Ushuaia," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity in line with government policy. "British diplomats in Argentina are urgently seeking to clarify the circumstances surrounding this incident."

Julie Benson, Carnival's vice president for public relations, did not immediately return a request for comment. But P&O Cruises confirmed that Argentine authorities turned away the Adonia after it stopped in the Falklands, and that the ship sailed on to its next port of call in Punta Arenas, Chile. The company said the cost of all Argentine shore excursions would be refunded to the passengers.

On the docks in Ushuaia, both the Star Princess and the Adonia were seen passing the port at 6:30 a.m. en route to Chile.

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