Arrested Spanish Trawler Could Have Sailed into Argentine EEZ Because of a Malfunctioning GPS

The Galician company which owns the “Playa Pesmar Uno” was arrested last Sunday by the Argentine Coast Guard allegedly for illegal fishing in the South Atlantic, admits the trawler could have involuntarily sailed into the EEZ, because one of the three GPS on board was malfunctioning.

The vessel, with its 34 crew, is currently docked in Comodoro Rivadavia waiting for the Argentine authorities and court to decide on the future of the vessel. However, the defense of Pesquerias Marinenses argued that a “verification” in situ of the GPS proved that in effect two were apparently working correctly, since they located the vessel at the dock, but the third one, which is normally used by the captain effectively marked quite a difference and distance from the dock.

This allegedly is the heart of the “Playa Pesmar Uno” defense strategy with the purpose of obtaining a reduction of the sanction and fine which the Argentine Fisheries and Aquaculture Under Secretariat is ready to impose and could range between $300.000 and $350.00 US dollars.

Alberto Penelas, a solicitor from Amaya Abogados specialized in maritime issues and disputes which also have an office in Buenos Aires, is head of the defense and said that “despite the fact the captain insists he never ventured into Argentine waters”, there is a time span of two hours in which he could have effectively been in the Argentine EEZ, according to the blue box in the vessel. “It all amounts to a GPS error, a small deviation which has her 0.4 mile inside the EEZ”, said Penelas.

However, at the moment the trawler was arrested the Coast Guard officer told the captain he was 800 meters inside Argentine waters, but according to the recording, the Spanish captain insists that his data and that of the Coast Guard do not coincide.

“Furthermore, the captain saw the patrol vessel Fique approach him but remained fishing since he was convinced he was in international waters”, said Penelas.

But despite the fact that the incursion into Argentine waters could have been the result of a “technical failure”, it does not exempt the vessel from the sanction, because the “Playa Pesmar Uno” it seems effectively did venture into the EEZ.

“We are negotiating the liberation of the vessel, the paper work is moving fast and we expect the fine will be lower than the maximum stipulated for such situations”, added Penelas. Regarding the 320 tons of fresh produce the trawler was carrying in its hold, the Spanish company is trying to recover it, but for this it must be proved, that all or most of it, was not caught in Argentine waters. Electronic hardware in the vessel and monitored from Spain should help with the discussion.

From Madrid foreign and cooperation minister Alfonso Dastis said he trusted that Spain and Argentina could solve the “Playa Pesmar Uno” incident as two friendly countries. “We’re looking into the situation to have a real picture of what happened” underlined the minister.

And from Marín, Galicia the company Pesquerias Marinenses argues that the Law of the Sea supports the situation of “Playa Pesmar Uno” since the vessel is entitled to sail through Argentine waters, without fishing, and for this the company has the support from the Spanish Association of Nautical Fishing.

The company revealed that the vessel operates from Montevideo, from where it sailed on January 11, and normally “fishes in Malvinas”, but unloads catches in Uruguay and to reach the fisheries it moves along a straight line south crossing Argentine waters.

From the Falklands, John Barton head of the Fisheries Department said that “Playa Pesmar Uno” does not have and was not awarded a Falklands fishing license, since 2015 when it was sanctioned for several offences.

Arrested Spanish Trawler GPS Malfunction

Argentina also originally said that the “Playa Pesmar Uno”, was licensed to fish in the Falklands and had drifted into the Argentine EEZ. This statement was also supported by fishing organizations in Vigo, Galicia in their first statements regarding the incident.