Two British cruise ships have been barred from docking at an Argentine port in an escalation of diplomatic tensions a month before the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict.

P&O Cruises’ Adonia, and Princess Cruises’ Star Princess, were both refused entry to the port of Ushuaia at the tip of South America on Monday after visiting the Falklands.

The Adonia is on an 87-night round South America cruise while the Star Princess is on a two-week voyage.

Argentina has banned vessels supplying British companies involved in oil exploration around the islands from plying its waters but the two cruise liners were turned away as they sailed in the Beagle Channel in accordance with provincial legislation which bars ships flying British flags, or flags of convenience, from putting in at Ushuaia.

The UK Foreign Office said there could be “no justification for interference in free and legitimate commerce”.

Marcelo Lieti, head of the Ushuaia chamber of tourism, lamented the decision. “We all defend the Malvinas,” he said, using the Argentine name for the South Atlantic archipelago. “But tourist cruises have nothing to do with the sovereignty claim.”

Argentina has complained to the UN about Britain’s decision to send a destroyer and, it claims, nuclear weapons to the Falklands area and accuses Britain of 21st century colonialism. It is also angry at the deployment of Prince William, in what it considers “conquistador” garb, to the islands as part of his military service.

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