Argentina is planning to hijack British oil rigs near the Falkland Islands to stop them drilling in the disputed territory, according to defence sources who say that the country has purchased four new super-tugs to intercept oil platforms.
Writing for the Brazilian website Defesanet, analyst Roberto Lopes says it is “not true” that Argentina is only purchasing the tugs to replace older vessels.
“These vessels will be used to intercept the British and American oil platforms designated for travel to the Falklands when drilling starts in the Sea Lion oil field,” he writes, adding: “the British will not allow oil exploration vessels travel to the Falklands without a military escort”.
Oil reserves around the disputed islands are estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars, and British attempts to extra the oil have aroused anger in Argentina.
The first oil production in the Sea Lion field is scheduled to start next spring. The field, located 135 miles north of the Falkland Islands will be drilled by British group Premier Oil.
When the oil starts flowing, it will be taxed at 26 percent, making the 3,000 Falkland Islanders one of the wealthiest communities on Earth.
The Islands presently belong to Britain, but are also claimed by Argentina. In 1982, the Argentine dictatorship of General Galtieri invaded and occupied the islands before the British government under Margaret Thatcher sent and expeditionary force and took them back.
Now that large oil reserves have been found in the waters surrounding the islands, Argentina has renewed its claim, wanting the oil wealth for itself.
In a referendum last year, islanders voted overwhelmingly to retain their current political status as a UK Overseas Territory. A total of 99.8 percent of people voted in favour of the status quo, with just three votes cast against.