MoD announces £2m upgrade to Windmill Hill monitoring station
The Ministry of Defence is to invest £2m to upgrade ‘Windy Hill’, its maritime monitoring facility overlooking the strategic Strait of Gibraltar.
Sitting high above Europa Point, personnel at the monitoring facility keep an eye on 60,000 ships entering or leaving the Mediterranean, or crossing between Africa and Europe.
They also play a crucial role detecting any suspicious activity in British Gibraltar territorial waters and logging any unlawful incursions by Spanish state vessels.
But after more than a century of constant operations keeping an eye on traffic visually, over the radio and electronically, Windmill Hill Signal Station “needs work”, the Royal Navy said.
Over the next 12 months, the complex will be expanded and improved with extra monitoring equipment installed.
Around 30 personnel work in the station, which is located on Windmill Hill allowing near-panoramic views of the strait and neighbouring Bay of Gibraltar.
“The face-lift that we are giving over the next few months means that the first-class support that the Rock has provided to the many tens of thousands of ships of all shapes, sizes and nationalities which all - annually - navigate through one of, if not the most important maritime choke-points, will improve and be second to none,” said Commodore Mike Walliker, Commander British Forces Gibraltar.
“Equally - and importantly - today serves as a warning and a reminder to all those who wish to use this narrow and congested stretch of water for criminal or nefarious activity.”
Although now under Joint Force Command rather than reporting directly to the Royal Navy, Windmill Hill Signal Station draws the bulk of its staff from the navy.
They feed information back to the UK and its allies and also support the international fight against drug trafficking.
The narrow waters separating the two continents are a known route for shipping narcotics into Europe and information provided by Windy Hill has led to illegal shipments of drugs and tobacco being seized.
Commodore Walliker got work under way on the extension with a ceremonial breaking ground ceremony at the site, nicknamed Windy Hill because of its exposure to a near constant onrush of air.
He says the upgrade will usher in "a new chapter in the long and distinguished history of Windy Hill".
“There has been a monitoring centre here since the late 19th Century and [this upgrade will] bring it ‘bang up-to-date’.”
Unusually, the announcement of the investment was made by the Royal Navy in the UK.