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British Gibraltar Territorial Waters

Volume 570: debated on Monday 4 November 2013

On Wednesday 30 October an incident occurred in British Gibraltar territorial waters (BGTW) involving dangerous manoeuvring by a Spanish guardia civil boat. Following media reporting of the incident, this statement sets out the facts and the Government’s response.

During a routine transfer of personnel between Royal Navy vessels in BGTW, a guardia civil vessel was observed approaching at speed. As the Spanish vessel approached, the Royal Navy and defence police vessels at the scene followed operational procedures, including forming a protective barrier. On arriving in the vicinity, the guardia civil vessel conducted several dangerous manoeuvres near the British vessels. At one point a minor collision occurred between the guardia civil vessel and one of the defence police boats. There was no damage to either vessel, no shots were fired and there were no injuries.

The UK’s defence attaché in Madrid raised our concerns about the incident with the Spanish Navy on Thursday 31 October. We have also raised this at a high level with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, making it clear that the actions of the guardia civil were unacceptable and dangerous, with the potential to cause serious injury or damage. Once the full facts of the incident had been established, a formal written protest was also issued to the Spanish Government in Madrid.