Page last updated at 14:21 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Oil drilling off Falkland Islands 'next week'

Ocean Guardian under tow
The Ocean Guardian left the Cromarty Firth in November

A rig being towed to the Falkland Islands from Scotland should start drilling for oil and gas from next week, a company involved has said.

The Ocean Guardian has been under tow by a tug since late November when it left Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth.

Argentina has announced new controls on shipping through its waters to the islands in an oil exploration dispute.

However, a spokesman for Desire Petroleum said the rig was expected to begin drilling as planned.

The work has involved the largest consignment of gear to be shipped from Aberdeen to the region.

About 9,000 tonnes of equipment was loaded at Aberdeen harbour for shipment to the Falklands.

The spokesman told the BBC Scotland news website that the Ocean Guardian - which has been contracted from Diamond Offshore Drilling - was nearing the islands.

AGR Petroleum Services, another company involved in the project, will use the rig during a £2m oil and gas exploration project in the North Falklands Basin.

UK-based Desire declined to comment on the growing dispute between the UK and Argentina over oil and gas exploration.

Argentina has said a permit will be needed by ships using Argentine waters en route to the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands - which are all UK controlled.

The UK Foreign Office said the Falkland Islands' waters were controlled by its authorities and would not be affected.

Argentina has protested to the UK about oil exploration.

Buenos Aires claims sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which it calls Islas Malvinas.

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