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Complaints filed after second Spanish pilot incident

The Gibraltar Port Authority has filed complaints with the flag states of two merchant ships whose captains allowed Spanish pilots to board while inside British Gibraltar territorial waters, ignoring instructions from port controllers here.

News of the complaints emerged yesterday after a Spanish pilot was boarded the Italian-flag Valtellina in British waters and sailed it to Algeciras.

The incident, which was photographed, echoed a similar occurrence earlier this month involving a Norwegian-flag vessel called SKS Mosel.

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Algeciras pilots operate within a private corporation that provides the service in the Spanish port.

The problem appears to be that at least some of the pilots do not recognise British waters or the instructions from Gibraltar’s vessel traffic service, which controls the movements of ships in Gibraltar waters.

The fear is that the actions of these pilots could ultimately pose a navigational safety risk in a heavily congested bay.

“In neither of these incidents have the Spanish pilots contacted Gibraltar vessel traffic service,” a spokesman for No 6 Convent Place said.

“On both occasions a complaint from the port has gone through to the flag state.”

The issue has also been discussed by port officials on either side of the bay who, despite occasional flare-ups, normally enjoy a good working relationship in the interests of safety.

The spokesman for No 6 Convent Place said that in the wake of the initial incident, port officials in Spain had apologised to their counterparts in Gibraltar.

But the second incident once again pushes the issue to the fore.

The Gibraltar Government had earlier called on the British Government to take diplomatic steps following the first incident at sea.

“Following the incident of 3rd February, we raised concerns with the Spanish Authorities about pilot boats operating out of the Port of Algeciras entering BGTW without permission,” a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

“We will continue to do so.”

Photos by Michael Sanchez