BUENOS AIRES, May 3 (UPI) -- Amid increased arms shopping, Argentina is turning the heat on shipping to the British-ruled Falkland Islands ahead of further results from recent drilling for underwater crude oil and gas reserves.
The latest Argentine coast guard restrictions on shipping came after President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced plans in February to monitor vessels traveling to and from the South Atlantic archipelago.
The Argentine curbs include punitive action against vessels that are found to be involved with the Falklands' oil exploration effort -- hotly contested by Buenos Aires, which claims sovereignty over the islands.
Britain and Argentina went to war in 1982 after an Argentine bid to seize control of the islands. The 74-day conflict cost 907 lives but, even after defeat, Argentina never abandoned the sovereignty claim, which it revived with public rallies when British oil firms started drilling for oil in the north Falklands Basin last year.
Fernandez escalated the sovereignty claim on the 28th anniversary of the Falklands War April 2, accusing Britain of ignoring U.N. resolutions. Britain says the Falklands' sovereignty isn't in dispute.
Argentine Naval Prefecture says requests for permission to travel by sea to the islands from Argentina must be submitted seven days before departure. It has warned shippers the same rule applies to vessels bound for Argentina from the Falklands, South Georgia or South Sandwich Islands in the Falklands archipelago.
At the heart of the new restrictions are Argentine demands for shippers' adherence to its Decree 256/2010, which means shippers who comply tacitly recognize Argentine jurisdiction over the islands, a British Overseas territory.
In one major incident in February, Argentine coastal officials halted a shipment of oil pipes apparently destined for the Falklands. The seizure coincided with the start of exploratory drilling.
Despite early reports that disappointed prospectors, neither the oil companies nor Argentine authorities watching over them have given up on the idea that the Falklands basin may hold huge oil and gas reserves, hence the Argentine moves to refurbish its long neglected military machine as part of the sovereignty drive.
Last month Argentina signed deals worth $30 million with Russia to buy Mi-171E transport helicopters and other equipment that in the past would have been supplied by U.S. companies.
A wide-ranging military refurbishment program, delayed for lack of government funds, now involves both public and private sector initiatives. Prospects for growth in the industry prompted Business Monitor International to issue a comprehensive "Argentina Defense & Security Report" in December 2009 aimed at potential investors in the sector.
Tension between Argentina and Britain over the Falklands has led to Argentine defense and security industries seeking international partnerships in anticipation of increased orders.
The Argentina Defense and Security Report cites 5-year industry forecasts for Argentina through 2014, company rankings and competitive landscapes covering national and multinational arms and components manufacturers, electronic and software producers and companies providing defense solutions.
The report's analysis of latest industry developments, trends and regulatory changes in Argentina are aimed at investors who see the Falklands factor impacting on Argentine defense industry's direction.
Industry trends, regulatory changes and major deals, projects and investments in Argentina were surveyed as part of the BMI report.
The Argentine military has been campaigning for more government funds to refurbish and find replacements for equipment previously bought from U.S. companies. Both China and Russia have expressed interest in expanding military cooperation with Buenos Aires.The deal signed with Russia last month was the first of several under negotiation to be finalized. Other areas explored by Argentina include Russian help with nuclear power development.