Argentine Naval Vessel Collides with Tanker

The Espora (file image courtesy Carlos Mey)

By MarEx 2016-06-02 21:31:37

Argentine media have reported a collision between the naval corvette ARA Espora and the merchant product tanker Saturn in a harbor near Bahia Blanca, Argentina.

The Espora reportedly dragged anchor in high winds and could not regain control before striking the bow of the tanker.

Both vessels were damaged; the Espora was taken to dock for evaluation and repairs and the Saturn remains at anchor as of June 2. Photos of the incident are available here

This is not the first time that the Espora has made headlines: she drew international media attention in 2012 when an American hedge fund attempted to have her seized in a South African port as collateral against unpaid government debt.  

The damage to the Espora comes at a time of heightened demand for Argentine naval and coast guard vessels. The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf recently decided in favor of an Argentine claim to additional territorial waters, extending the area of its sovereignty by 35 percent and 700,000 square miles of ocean – including the region off the disputed Falkland Islands. Argentinian media note that the nation has only 12 government ships capable of offshore patrol, and not all have the ability to venture far from the coast. Many are aging – the Espora was built in 1981 – and the operational fleet has been shrinking in recent years due to limited available funds for operations and maintenance.  

In addition to newly enlarged maritime borders to monitor, Argentine coast guard units face a new challenge from dozens of Chinese distant-water fishing vessels, which allegedly attempt to operate illegally in the nation's territorial waters. The squid fishing fleet just outside of Argentina’s EEZ is large enough to be visible from space (see below).

Image courtesy NASA / NOAA

In March, Argentine patrol units chased the Chinese fishing vessel Hua Li 8 from the nation's EEZ into Uruguayan waters; the vessel was caught by Indonesian authorities six weeks later and detained. The Argentine coast guard also fired on and sank the Chinese vessel Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 after it failed to heed calls to stop and be boarded, prompting diplomatic outcry from Chinese officials.

The General Director of the Chinese Fisheries Bureau, Zhao Xingwu, recently met with his Argentine counterpart, Tomas Gerpe, to improve cooperation: Xingwu reportedly gave Gerpe access to satellite data on the positions of the Chinese distant water fishing fleet.