Another UK protest after weekend close encounter at sea
This is the moment a small Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron patrol craft flashed its blue lights as it came dramatically close to a Spanish warship during an unlawful incursion into Gibraltar waters this weekend.
The incident, which occurred on Saturday, saw the Spanish Navy vessel Centinela sail into local waters drawing the intervention of HMS Sabre.
The Royal Navy vessel arrived on the scene and read the Spanish vessel warnings ordering it to leave.
The near miss brought immediate condemnation from the UK Government with a spokesman confirming that a formal diplomatic protest would be made to the Spanish Government.
UK Government spokesman said: “There was an incursion into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters this morning [July 1] by a Spanish Naval Vessel, SPS Centinela.”
“The Royal Navy challenges all maritime incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) – and did so again on this occasion.”
“We will also be making a formal diplomatic protest to the Spanish government.”
“Safety at sea is a priority for the UK and Gibraltar.”
“The Royal Navy are trained to the highest standards and are highly skilled in seamanship.”
The incident comes just two weeks before the Queen hosts Spanish King Felipe and his wife Letizia for an official state visit.
That same night Tory MP and long-time supporter of Gibraltar, Andrew Rosindell, called for the visit to be scrapped.
He told the Express: “The people of Gibraltar are rightly nervous. They break the rules while we, in turn, welcome the King and Queen of Spain for a state visit.”
“What kind of message is that for the people of Gibraltar?”
“The people of Gibraltar are very unnerved, and rightly so. The Government needs to be much more robust.”
HMS Sabre is one of only two such vessels kept to protect the Rock’s sovereign waters.
However, for the past few weeks Sabre has been the sole patrol craft in action as the other vessel, HMS Scimitar, has been undergoing a six-week programme of repair and refurbishment.
In a statement, Joint Forces Command explained that Gibraltar’s Naval Base dockyard has “regained its symmetry” now that HMS Scimitar is back alongside in her old berth.
Since late April she has been stuck up on dry land for her Annual Survey and Refit Period, a six-week programme of repair and refurbishment to keep her running smoothly.
The work package was delivered by Bolaños, a local Gibraltar company sub-contracted by Babcock who oversee projects for the Navy, from the Vanguard class submarines to Type 23 frigates, and all the way down to the two Fast Patrol Boats that make up Gibraltar Squadron.
This year the programme included a new coat of paint, the addition of new high-intensity strobe lights and the replacement of the head on one of her two MAN diesel engines.
After eight weeks up in a cradle her Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr James Myhill RN, was pleased to take her back to sea for her trials and to sign off the work that had been completed.
He said: “Having been involved throughout this ASRP I am extremely pleased to see HMS Scimitar return to sea and to her patrol duties around Gibraltar. With the combined efforts of Gibraltar Squadron’s engineers, Babcock and Bolaños, Scimitar is running smoother than ever and we’ve even managed an increased top speed during her acceptance trials.”
“In Scimitar’s absence, her sister ship HMS Sabre has been continuing duties around Gibraltar,” the statement read.
“These include demonstration of British sovereignty of the waters around the Rock and escort missions, bringing warships and submarines safely alongside one of the UK’s key strategic bases.”
Photo by DM Parody