UK Minister reviews MOD facilities and Gibdock during whistle-stop visit
The Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, on Tuesday reviewed local military facilities, after the MoD confirmed investments of up to £50m in improving key infrastructure on the Rock.
The visit saw Mr Heappey review the Armaments Depot and tunnels used for subterranean training.
This comes as the UK confirmed major defence investment in Gibraltar.
On Monday Mr Heappey told the Chronicle that the UK is “hugely committed” to investing in Gibraltar’s military infrastructure.
In announcing the visit earlier this week, the MoD said that between £40 to £50m had been committed to projects in Gibraltar including improvements to the South Mole, the reinstatement of King’s Line Oil Depot and the replacement of communications infrastructure.
All of the projects are in the design phase.
The MoD said the investments will ensure that British Forces Gibraltar can continue to play a crucial role as a forward Mounting Base for UK Defence, routinely supporting ships, submarines and aircraft as they project further south and into the eastern Mediterranean.
The King’s Lines Oil Fuel Depot has been left unused for years but, over the past months, military planners have surveyed the pipes and confirmed they could be put to good use.
The visit came against the backdrop of increased military activity in Gibraltar and earlier investments including new purpose-built patrol boats for the Gibraltar Squadron and a sensitive refurbishment of The Tower that won a heritage award.
Mr Heappey said Gibraltar is a hugely important strategic facility for the United Kingdom, adding that the UK will keep investing.
He affirmed this to the Gibraltar Government, highlighting the importance of Gibraltar to the UK military during a meeting with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia.
During the meeting, Mr Picardo stressed the commitment of the Government and the people of Gibraltar to the armed forces.
The recent disruption at Gibraltar Airport was also discussed in the context of the services contracted by the MoD at the airport.
The treaty negotiations with the European Union were also raised and the Minister was briefed on the plans for a No Negotiated Outcome.
“James Heappey is a good friend of Gibraltar who will always be welcome here,” Mr Picardo said.
“The visit reflects the positive state of relations between the Gibraltar and UK Governments, and with the Ministry of Defence in particular.”
Mr Heappey met soldiers and officers of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment to celebrate recent successes, including celebrating their 84th Anniversary, and their recent upturn in recruitment.
He heard perspectives from the Regiment on their increasing contribution to wider UK Defence Objectives, as demonstrated by recent deployments to Iceland, Turkey and The Gambia.
Mr Heappey also met with members of HMS Forth’s crew and visited Gibdock, which has increasingly been used by the RN to conduct ship repairs and routine maintenance.
Following Mr Heappey’s visit the Royal Navy said the Rock’s reinvigorated military importance had been underlined.
Commodore Tom Guy, Commander British Forces Gibraltar, was among several military and political leaders who hosted the minister during a brief visit, and the Royal Navy said Gibraltar’s strategic role had “expanded significantly”.
“The squadron has found itself called upon increasingly to provide protection for visiting warships; there’s been a three-fold rise in UK and Allied vessels using the base,” the Royal Navy said.
“The naval base itself has/is undergoing a revamp; Whitehall is investing upwards of £50m in refurbishing the South Mole, improving the communications infrastructure and bringing the Kings Lines Oil Fuel Depot back into use.”
“Already completed is the first overhaul in more than 30 years of the iconic Tower, the iconic Edwardian building in the naval base, which serves as Cdre Guy’s headquarters.”