- BBC News World
Diplomatic disputes between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands are common, and have increased since the two countries battled nearly four decades ago for sovereignty over that archipelago in the South Atlantic.
But the latest controversy concerns a new “front line”: Antartida.
Argentina and the United Kingdom are two of the seven countries that claim parts of the White Continent, but they are the only two countries that claim the same part of the land.
The British claim to Antarctica, made in 1908, includes (and exceeds) entirely the territory claimed by the South American country four years earlier.
In 1940, Chile joined the controversy, claiming a portion of the land claimed by both.
currently This rivalry has deepened in Antarctica, thanks to the fact that at first glance it doesn’t seem to have much to do with it.
It’s about building New deep water port In Malvinas/Falklands, after the deterioration of the present port.
At BBC Mundo we explain why this act has angered some politicians in Argentina and worried Antarctic experts in that country.
And why did it become the new port of Malvinas / Falklands A new chapter in the Antarctic conflict.
It all started at the end of 2018, when the Malvinas/Falkland Islands government – better known as the FIG or Falkland Islands government – published a notice inviting companies to submit their ideas for building a new port.
In a report submitted to the local legislature, Barry Al-Sabi, head of the development and commercial services file, explained that the deterioration of the current port, Built in 1984 Known as Fipass (Falkland Temporary Port and Storage System), it was “to the point that it is no longer safe for ships to dock there”.
The newspaper consulted her penguin news — the only person posted on the islands — about what they intended the new port to look like, Elsby noted that FIG had been open to suggestions, leaving the notice “deliberately open.”
“The ad came up saying we want a port with that much berth space, this amount of cargo capacity on the edge, and then we allow interested parties to develop their own ideas and sell them to us,” he said.
In May 2019, bidding was opened for what Elsabi described as “a capital project.” The largest in the history of the islandsIn February 2020, it was announced that the work was awarded to the Anglo-Dutch company BAM Nutall Ltd.
“As is well known, the current Fipass installation is fast approaching at the end of its useful life. Today’s exciting news is the first step in designing a new facility that can handle both our current needs and our projected future requirements.”
It is reported that the new port will be built near the existing port in Port Stanley.
During the contract signing in April 2020, BAM Nuttall Managing Director Martin Bellamy said the new port “will support the local economy, including fishing, tourism and maritime transport, It will facilitate the expected economic growth in the future.”
After a halt due to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, plans were resumed in August 2020 and in September BAM Nuttall presented the plan for the new port at a public hearing in the municipality.
The island authorities stated that the port would be operational “by 2024 at the latest”, and that its construction would be financed with offset loans. 85 million US dollars.
So far the news of the new port in Malvinas/Falklands It has almost gone unnoticed outside the archipelago.
However, a year later, in August 2021, this work became the center of controversy in neighboring Argentina.
First, the government of the southernmost province of the country, whose official name is Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands (which includes the Malvinas/Falkland Islands), denounced BAM Nuttall for operating without its license in that region on the person claiming sovereignty.
Then, in the middle of the month, a National Senator from Tierra del Fuego denounced before the Argentine Parliament that this act was ultimately aimed at expanding British control over Antarctica.
“With the construction of this port, Great Britain intends to consolidate its colonization in the Malvinas Islands and the region as a spearhead to expand its influence on AntarcticaPablo Blanco accused.
According to the legislator, the aim of the new port is to “provide logistical services to third European countries that have interests in the White Continent.”
“What they want is to have more logistical resources to continue allocating the natural, renewable and non-renewable resources that we have,” he said.
BBC Mundo consulted the FIG and the British government for Argentine data and plans regarding the new port, but received no response.
The Mirco Press news agency, which covers the South Atlantic, noted that complaints in Argentina occur in the run-up to the midterm primaries, which will be held in mid-September.
“Awakening the national vein is very beneficial“Note, on a stranger timing of complaints.
But the truth is that out of politics, there is real concern among some in Argentina that the New Malvinas/Falklands Port It seeks to replace the capital of Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, as the entry point into Antarctica.
Located about 1,000 kilometers from the White Continent, Ushuaia is the southernmost capital in the world and declares itself the “Gateway to Antarctica”.
Although the Malvinas/Falklands authorities have not linked their new port directly to the Antarctic expeditions, an event last February led some in Argentina to conclude that this would be one of their goals.
This came in a report published by the Argentine magazine DEF, which specializes in defense, energy and science issues, in early August.
According to the publication,Raised the alarm among Argentine specialists in Antarctica“It was a journey undertaken by about a hundred technicians and scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.
The experts left Hamburg for the German base Neumayer III, in Antarctica.
But what was unprecedented, according to DEF, was how they made the trip: First, they flew in a Lufthansa plane, chartered by the Wegener Institute, to Mount Pleasant International Airport, a British Air Force base in Falklands/Malvinas.
From there they traveled to the White Continent on the German icebreaker Polarstern.
According to DEF, “It was the first air and sea operation of its kindWith the ability to go and return to Europe in 48-72 hours.”
The magazine noted that this voyage is in addition to the construction of “a new British port in Malvinas (/ Falklands) specializing in Antarctic services (…] They are indications of the beginning of an aggressive British policy to attract clients from the international community in Antarctica“.
competition in Antarctica
So far, many countries that claim parts of Antarctica, and of the remaining 35 countries that have permanent bases on the white continent, have managed to get this far from Two nearest points: Ushuaia or Punta Arenas, in Chile(It is located about 150 km to the north).
But according to the same DEF report, these countries – most of which are located in the northern hemisphere – can look for other access routes because “South American ports are characterized by administrative obstacles”.
“In addition, in a globalized world it is increasingly important to reduce shipping costs,” he highlights specialty media.
In this sense, it also highlights that unlike British plans, Chile is already leading Argentina Regarding the logistics you provide to get to Antarctica.
It highlights that “Chile has developed private companies for ships and aircraft for polar exploration, leads the Antarctic tourism sector, and will soon have the most modern icebreakers in the Southern Hemisphere.”
For all this, some Antarctic experts believe that instead of focusing on British plans, Argentina should focus on making the most of its advantageous geographical position.
“Proximity to Antarctica will allow us to form a practical and scientific logistics pole at the national and international levels, which will allow us to position ourselves as a global reference,” says journalist Susana Rigos, who specializes in Antarctic issues.
Alejandro Bertuto, former Antarctic regional director and former head of the San Martin Antarctic base, told DEF that in the 1990s there was an ambitious project, sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to create an international system in Ushuaia of “Antarctic logistics”.
The plans included the establishment of an “air cargo station, a sea freight station, and accommodation for the transiting scientific cadres.”
“In addition, in Antarctica, at the Petrel base, an Antarctic cargo terminal is planned, from there, to be distributed to the Argentine and foreign bases that contract with these services,” he said.
However, the South American country, which suffers from constant economic crises, Didn’t progress with plans.
“Unfortunately , Argentina didn’t know how to board the Antarctic logistics trainBertuto complained.
The DEF report highlights that the country – the first in the world to establish a permanent base in Antarctica and claim its sovereignty there – “has a high quality of human, military and scientific resources, as well as extensive experience in developing Antarctic campaigns.”
Therefore, he concludes that “Argentina is losing its advantage to have a deep-water harbor on the Beagle Channel.”
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