Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
Local News

UK to protest to Spain after ‘unacceptable’ incident in Bay of Gibraltar

Photos by GBC and archive photos by Johnny Bugeja.

An incident which saw a Spanish Customs officers allegedly restrain crew members of a locally registered vessel in Gibraltar waters will be formally protested by the UK Government.

The incident took place on Monday night and saw a Spanish Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera (SVA) vessel, Aguila 2, enter British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, the Gibraltar Government has confirmed.

At around 10.30pm the SVA chased port tender vessel the ‘Ultimate Predator’, with Spanish Customs officers boarding the vessel and attempting to take executive action.

This action is now at the centre of a formal protest which the UK Government will raise with Spain’s central Government in Madrid.

“The UK Government is aware of an incident on 14 August where a Spanish customs vessel conducted constabulary actions in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, which constituted an incursion and violation of UK sovereignty,” a spokesman from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) told the Chronicle.

“The UK Government will protest this incident to the Spanish Government.”

HM Customs attended the scene while the SVA were onboard the ‘Ultimate Predator’ and assisted its crew.

The Gibraltar Defence Police also attended with the Aguila 2 crew then withdrawing from the vessel and leaving BGTW at 11pm on Monday.

“One of the crew members of the Gibraltar vessel appears to have been illegally restrained by a Spanish operative who boarded their vessel despite lacking jurisdiction to take any action within Gibraltar or the internationally recognised British waters around it,” No6 Convent Place said.

“The other crew members of the Gibraltar vessel were taken aboard a HM Customs vessel whilst Gibraltar law enforcement searched the Ultimate Predator and liaised with the SVA.”

HM Customs had identified the vessel on radar as travelling without navigational lights and without its Automatic Identification System (AIS) flagging its location.

“This gave rise to suspicion by HM Customs who moved to identify the vessel,” the statement said.

“HM Customs is satisfied, having subsequently searched the Ultimate Predator, and having tracked its movements, that it had been carrying out a legitimate crew transfer to a merchant ship in BGTW and that its navigational lights and AIS had malfunctioned.”

There were no reports of injuries or rubber bullets being fired during the incident.

Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, called this incident “an unacceptable reflection” of Spanish law enforcement’s failure to recognise that their territorial limits do not extend to Gibraltar’s unquestionably British waters.

“The unfortunate failure of the navigational lights and AIS of a vessel can, rightly, give rise to suspicion on the part of law enforcement agencies patrolling BGTW. HM Customs was dealing with the matter,” Mr Picardo said.

“The engagement of a foreign law enforcement agency, however, without any communication or coordination with Gibraltar law enforcement, is illegal and unacceptable.”

“The Spanish officers in question have potentially committed offences against Gibraltar law and I am asking that the matter must be forcefully raised with Spain.”

Mr Picardo added Gibraltar wants a future of greater cooperation and coordination, especially in the fight against crime.

“But that cannot come about or be ushered in by illegal actions such as those that have been reported overnight to have been taken by the SVA,” he said.

“They were out of their jurisdiction and they were acting illegally in restraining a person in Gibraltar without legal authority to do so. That is worse than unacceptable.”

“I am pleased that the United Kingdom will be making its position clear to Spain on this incident. It does nothing to promote the cross-frontier relationships we have worked so hard to build.”

“In fact, it does the opposite and tends to damage cooperation between law enforcement colleagues as well as creating even deeper suspicion in the wider population about the attitude of some sectors of Spanish law enforcement to Gibraltar.”

“I commend the crews of the HM Customs and GDP vessels for their actions and their proportionate responses.”

Most Read

Local News

easyJet diverts to Bilbao

Download The App On The iOS Store