Palma risks losing U.S. navy to Tarragona

Palma is in danger of losing its position as one of the most popular liberty ports in the Mediterranean for visiting warships. The protests this week against the nuclear carrier George Washington could not have come at a worse time with the mainland port of Tarragona “pushing the boat” to try and attract visiting U.S. warships Already a sizeable number of U.S. warships are using the port with the local council providing free transport for sailors from the docks to the city centre while Tarragona bars display signs welcoming the U.S. Navy. And it is not only the U.S. Navy, the Royal Navy has also paid the port a courtesy visit. On average the crew of an American aircraft carrier will spend an estimated $1 million a day during their time in port. While there are naturally environmental concerns local businesspeople say that the Navy trade is more than welcome especially during the winter months. Greenpeace Director Xavier Pastor has said that their fight is not with warships it is with nuclear power or nuclear armament. However, both the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy have a policy of never saying whether their warships are carrying nuclear weapons. Only time will tell whether the protest this week will have a lasting affect. The George Washington is due to be replaced in the Mediterranean by an even bigger aircraft carrer, the Trueman which is also nuclear powered and probably armed. Since the end of the Cold war the U.S. Navy has dramatically cut back the end of tour visits their warships make to Palma. There are now fears that this week's protests will mean that they go somewhere else. Palma's geographic position makes it an ideal stopping off point for visiting warships. But naturally the navy would want to know that they are welcome. Although Greenpeace claim that their actions this week were a success only a small number of the island's estimated 3'000 pleasure craft took part in the demonstration. The leader of the Balearic government Francesc Antich condemned the visit which is quite natural as his rainbow coalition includes members of the Green Party, who are naturally against nuclear weapons. “I think it would be a very sad state of affairs if we lost all the American dollars from warships to Tarragona. The authorities there don't appear to mind nuclear warships,” said one Spanish bar owner yesterday.

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