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Royal Navy fires flares as Spanish research ship enters British waters

A Royal Navy speedboat prevented a Spanish research vessel from deploying a sonar buoy in British waters in the Bay of Gibraltar today, in the latest of a string of incursions over the past 48 hours.

During moments of high tension, the Royal Navy fired at least three warning flares and repeatedly ordered the Spanish vessel to leave British waters.


As scientists on the Spanish ship Angeles Alvariño tried to drop the buoy into the sea, a Gibraltar Squadron rigid-hulled inflatable boat moved in close to the hull to prevent them doing so.

The incident was caught on video by one of the Spanish scientists and later tweeted by Victor Díaz-del-Rio, an oceanographer who works with the Spanish Oceanographic Institute, which operates the research vessel.

During the course of this afternoon's incident, the Royal Navy patrol boat HMS Sabre also fired a flare to warn the Spanish vessel to desist in its manoeuvres.

The incursion lasted several hours, according to eye witnesses on land who followed closely as the the events unfolded.

A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed that a flare had been fired by the Royal Navy but was unable to add any further detail at this stage.

The Spanish vessel, which is conducting a survey of an underwater canyon in the bay and the Strait of Gibraltar, left briefly later in the afternoon but subsequently returned and was still in the bay at 6.20pm.

The Royal Navy repeatedly warned the Spanish ship to leave British waters and fired at least two more warning flares, according to eyewitnesses.

Angeles Alavriño Spanish research ship

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he had been in regular contact the Commander of British Forces, Commodore Mike Walliker, throughout the weekend in respect of the incursion involving the Spanish survey vessel.

"I have discussed all the tactical decisions taken and am satisfied that they have been designed to demonstrate untrammelled sovereignty jurisdiction and control over British Gibraltar territorial waters," Mr Picardo said.


"I congratulate the Royal Navy for the work they have undertaken so far in very challenging circumstances in light of the reckless disregard for safety displayed by the official Spanish vessels involved."

"Diplomatic and political action must now support the excellent work undertaken by the navy personnel with limited resources."

On Twitter, the Spanish scientist Sr Díaz-del-Rio complained that the Royal Navy was interrupting important scientific work to study the risk of tsunamis in this area, adding that the research was being undertaken "in Spanish waters".

But Dr John Cortes, Gibraltar's Minister for the Environment, tweeted in response that the Spanish scientists were being used as pawns to further Spanish jurisdictional claims over the waters around the Rock.

Photographs by DM Parody and Stephen Ignacio.


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