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February 11, 2010

Argentina bans ship said to support Falklands drilling

Argentina has banned the Danish-owned, Isle of Man flagged general cargo ship Thor Leader from its ports.

Official Argentine news agency Télam says the Under Secretariat of Ports and Waterways has banned all operations by the ship at Argentine "until it complies with the current regulations."

At issue is a cargo of 7,099 tons of seamless steel tubes, "allegedly destined for Egypt but whose suspected destination were the Malvinas Islands" as Argentina calls the Falkland Islands.

The Diamond Offshore rig Ocean Guardian is set to start exploratory drilling for Britain's Desire Petroleum this month in the North Falklands Basin. This has upset the Argentinian government which is still asserting claims of sovereignty in the area.

Télam cites a "Regulation 108/10," bearing the signature of the Under Secretary for Ports and Waterways, saying that the Thor Leader "lacks the departure authorization from an Argentine port ... since the departure and leaving papers granted by the National Maritime Authority at Puerto Argentino, Malvinas Islands have not been presented."

According to one posting on a bulletin board for Desire Petroleum investors, Thor Leader was indeed in the Falklands (or Malvinas if you're an Argentinian) as recently as mid-January, discharging cargo for the Ocean Guardian. If it then proceeded to an Argentinian port, it would have ad some difficulty in obtaining departure papers from "the National Maritime Authority at Puerto Argentino, Malvinas Islands" as the Argentinian authorities haven't had any such establishment since 1982 when Argentinian forces were expelled from the Falklands by force of arms.

Be that as it may, the fact that Thor Leader was recently discharging cargo for the Ocean Guardian would tend to make Argentina suspect that its next cargo might be for the same purpose.

However, Techint Group, the manufacturer of the seamless pipes, maintains that the cargo loaded onto the Thor Leader is, in fact, destined for the Mediterranean.

Latest reports placed the Thor Leader as still docked at Techint's Campana, Argentina, facility.


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