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Spanish Customs chase speedboat to just metres from Gib shore, sparking protest

A Spanish Customs vessel chased a locally-registered speedboat to just metres from shore near Waterport Terraces on Wednesday afternoon, sparking outrage and prompting a diplomatic protest even though Spanish officers later apologised for coming so close.

The incident started at 2.40pm in the area of the refinery when the Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera [SVA] vessel Aguila IV approached the Phantom launch and asked its occupants to stop.

According to the SVA officers, the vessel’s occupants ignored the order and were chased at high speed into the basin on the approach to Ocean Village marina.

Videos circulating on social media showed the Spanish vessel coming into the area with siren blaring close behind the speedboat, both travelling fast in an area where speed restrictions are in place.

The speedboat continued into the marina but the Spanish vessel stopped metres from the HM Customs (Gibraltar) building near the refuelling berth, before turning back and heading out to sea.

It was subsequently escorted out of British waters by the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron’s HMS Dasher and a navy rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

The two occupants of the speedboat, both local males, were detained by HM Customs officers and their boat was seized while investigations are carried out for a suspected breach of conditions of an Import Permit.

“Regarding the entry of the SVA into BGTW, a HM Customs vessel was deployed to liaise with the SVA crew,” a spokesman for the Gibraltar Government added.

“On arrival, the SVA crew were very apologetic for coming so close to the marina and advised that they had spotted the local launch in the area of the refinery and, after a request to stop was ignored, they were chased into BGTW.”

The Gibraltar Government was liaising with The Convent and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on this incident.

A spokesman for The Convent told the Chronicle: “This is categorised as an incursion with executive action and will be protested to the Spanish authorities.”

The presence of a Spanish vessel so close to shore caused alarm and anger for many people who witnessed the incident.

Many of them posted videos and images on social media showing clearly how close the SVA launch had come to shore.

The incident also drew a political reaction from the Opposition, which described it as “a brazen and unwarranted” incursion by the SVA vessel.

In a statement, the Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, said: “The blatant incursion of a Spanish customs vessel into our waters this afternoon was outrageous.”

“The vessel with armed officers on board was metres from Waterport Terraces and from our runway.”

“It was just in front of our own authorities. It was a clear and deliberate disregard of our jurisdiction, sovereignty and control.”

“The GSD completely rejects this brazen and unwarranted incursion into our waters that can have no possible excuse.”

“We call on the UK and Gibraltar Governments to make clear to Spain that this is entirely unjustified and unacceptable.”

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