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Argentina: Requirement to Check-in with Coastguard - Updated

By Sue Richards last modified Jan 09, 2012 02:32 PM

Published: 2012-01-09 14:32:31
Countries: Argentina , Chile

UPDATED INFORMATION: Subsequent new arrivals have now been detained by the Argentine coastguard served with notices that they had operated their vessels in an unprofessional manner. See "Further Advice from Cruisers" below with recommendations if planning to cruise in Argentine waters.

As the season down in this part of the world has just kicked off, noonsite has started to receive reports from cruisers with an update on the ever-changing situation for visiting yachts.

Currently it seems there are yet more problems that cruisers in the area should be aware of. This time, it concerns the coastguard.

Two recent arrivals in Ushuaia, both legitimate cruisers (one Argentine and another Austrian) both in Ushuaia for the first time, were visited by the coastguard and informed of an “infraction in communications”.

Apparently new rules require any vessel travelling between Argentine ports to regularly contact the coastguard. Failure to do this will incur a fine. We have been told that fines range from U$750 to U$2000.

So far 5 boats have been detained and all have had to put up with several hours of interviews and lengthy depositions. However, the yachts so far detained are free to go and action is not being pursued. One fine was issued but later withdrawn.

The new rules are irrespective of the route taken and all vessels - whether sailing 200 miles or more offshore direct from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia or coast hopping – will need to familiarize themselves with the various Argentine coastguard frequencies and be fluent in Spanish. Every boat must check in on a daily basis by a pre-agreed method (Email - Satellite phone - SSB or VHF frequency) while sailing between Argentine ports. Get a written contact sheet and log your attempts to call to avoid heavy fines on arrival at your destination.

This is not an Ushuaia issue but directed from Buenos Aires and seems to be more assertion of Argentine maritime spaces. Apparently any yacht that does not check in regularly will cause a helicopter SAR to be initiated. As usual the rules are not clear and the exact requirement is vague.

Advice from local cruisers to anyone in Argentina or planning to run the Patagonian coast, is to clear out to a foreign destination - Cape Town, Montevideo or Puerto Williams, and if you have to come to Ushuaia to stop in Puerto Williams, Chile and get the latest news before proceeding into Argentine waters. Stay at least 12 miles off the coast.

Note that all new arrivals will be boarded and a safety inspection carried out. So far they are checking flares and life rafts but they are warning the inspections "are going to get a lot tougher.

Further Advice from Cruisers

  • A command of the Spanish language will put you at a disadvantage. If you cannot communicate clearly they are less likely to throw the book at you.
  • Never can they insist you speak Spanish, English is the nautical tongue. Mostly they are pleased if you give it a shot with Buenos dias and then go on in English. But they cannot fine you for that. If they persist threaten with the IMO or Embassy.
  • Be aware that while navigating in these waters it is a requirement to have a working VHF radio and have it on when sailing.
  • Take a chart and show your route you took (make sure the chart does not have the word "Falkland" on it or you may face difficulties).
  • Tell the coastguard that you only posess a VHF - that automaticly implies that after 25 miles you are relieved of communication obligations. If they come and make a visit on your boat, and see the SSB, just tell them the receiver works (and unscrew the mic if neccesary). There is no requirement to have a working SSB on board. Never tell them you have satphones, they will call you or send sms's and stuff up your mailbox. Keep it simple and low profile.
  • Advise the coastguard that you attempted a radio call to Prefectura naval Argentina on the VHF at a fixed time every day and if possible have a written memo to back this up and that you received no reply. It appears that nobody has been able to raise the coastguard more than 4 miles from the antenna, and the watch officer - normally Spanish speaking only - is trained to respond to the station 4 letter call sign rather than a general internationally recognised hail, so even if you are in range it is unlikely you will get a response.
  • However if you are sighted and hailed you must respond. Not responding will get you into trouble.
  • If you have a ham radio on board it does not count as it is not marine communications equipment.
  • Under normal circumstances attempting to keep an SSB HF sked with authorities is very time consuming and counter productive, so this route is not recommended. To date we know of nobody who has successfully contacted the Argentine coastguard by HF radio.
  • Cruisers report that if you email the address the coastguard give you on departure, all mails are returned undeliverable.
  • Also reported but not confirmed: the phone number they give you to report to goes to a residential address and is not connected with the coastguard.

Further Cruisers' reports from Ushuaia:

“Prices in Ushuaia are now insane with local wages now double their equivalent in the USA so there is no financial gain in provisioning here and fuel is getting very hard to get hold of.”

“Puerto Williams has a new larger ferry service to Punta Arenas, so it is alot easier to travel to Punta Arenas and return with provisions (plus local merchants can also provision your yacht at very reasonable prices)".

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