Argentina has been accused of trying to ‘strangle’ the Falkland Islands by intimidating cruise ships which stop there, it emerged yesterday.
At least 12 incidents of luxury liners being targeted have been reported to Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office since November – typically one a fortnight.
Protesters or industrial action by militant unions are disrupting vessels that have a stopover in islands on their itinerary.
Some cruise ships have cancelled visits to the Falklands because of the fallout from continuing tensions over sovereignty of the South Atlantic archipelago.
Protests have included officials refusing entry to Argentine ports or delaying ships, masked militants attacking and ransacking shipping company offices in Buenos Aires and cruise schedules either altered or abandoned to appease locals.
Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire has condemned the intimidation and the Government has summoned Argentine Ambassador Alicia Castro to complain about the incidents involving 10,000 passengers.
The effect on so many visitors is a huge blow to the islands’ tourist industry, based in the capital, Stanley, which is worth as much as £10million and employs a quarter of the population.
Dick Sawle, a member of the Falkland Islands Government, said: ‘This is yet another example of a country of over 40million people attempting to bully and threaten our 3,000 people and strangle the economy of our home.
‘We regret this, and strongly encourage the tourism industry to stand firm, and not to allow themselves to be scared into assisting attempts to damage our economy in what is tantamount to an economic blockade.
‘There are countless families in the islands whose livelihoods depend on the cruise vessel industry.
‘For over a decade we have enjoyed welcoming visitors from all over the world to see our wonderful wildlife and heritage.’
In December two cruise ships, the Seven Seas Mariner, which carries 700 passengers and the Regatta, which carries 600, cancelled visits to the Falklands because of intimidation.
The following month British cruise firm P&O announced two of its liners, Arcadia and Adonia, responded by scrapping stopovers in Argentina during their round-the-world cruises to avoid disruption.