A TUG of war between the Spanish and Gibraltar police over a smuggler’s boat has led to a further escalation of tensions.

The incident happened on Thursday after a Guardia Civil vessel entered Gibraltar waters to intercept a pleasure cruiser that was loaded up with 300 packs of contraband cigarettes.

A Gibraltar patrol boat intervened to try to prevent the operation in British waters, allegedly ramming the smugglers’ vessel with the Civil Guard officers aboard.

It then attempted to tow the vessel back to Gibraltar, at which point there was a tense face-off between police officers from both sides.

It lead to claims in the Spanish press that a Guardia Civil officer was knocked to the deck injuring himself, claims that are denied by Gibraltar government.

A second Spanish ship was finally able to take control of the smugglers’ boat and tow it into the Spanish port, where the smugglers were arrested.

A spokesman for the Guardia Civil Union said a formal complaint would be filed.

“We consider this to be a clear criminal act against us during the exercise of our duties,” he said.

“Something much more serious could have happened, and that is why we demand that the government take action to stop the escalating harassment by the Gibraltar police against us.”

The UK warned that Spanish actions in British waters around the Rock risked serious injury or even death.

Tensions have been further increased with claims that Gibraltar has once again brought more rocks in to bolster its defences.

The Spanish media claimed a boat from Morocco brought in more big rocks and sand for the Sandy Bar area on the Eastern face of the Rock.

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  1. GC later said the officer was injured jumping aboard the alleged smugglers boat. Given the length of time since the incident happened I would have thought you could have referred to the RGP statement that no collision took place issued the same day rather than print verbatim what was in the right wing Spanish press.

  2. A spokesman for the GC said this had been an accident when a GC officer jumped on board the small boat slipped and fell whilst they were trying to tow it away to Algeciras, which is the same thing the Royal Gibraltar Police had stated and has kept to. What was originally a small fry tobacco smuggling op with three dustbin liners full of tobacco, has now ended up as anti drug smuggling operation which was being “hindered” by the RGP in “Spanish” waters right next to the Gibraltar landing strip. Strange how some peoples minds work.

    As to the “tension” about the rocks being imported to safeguard the loss of sand from Gibraltar’s beaches from action taken further up the coast with the relevant permissions, Spain has done that and more all over their coasts without Gibraltar trying to persuade other countries not to sell material to them.

  3. Inthename

    ”Spanish waters right next to Gibraltar’s landing strip”

    You are so sure about this?

    Because Spanish Foreign Minister Garcia-Margallo said, ‘not sure about success in legal challenge of Gibraltar’s waters’ quoted in MercoPress 13 Dec 2013.

    ‘Historic Title’ PCA Cae Guyana-Suriname 17 Sept 2007
    Paragraph 296 ‘This Article 15 of the Convention places ”primacy” on the median line as the delimitation line between territorial seas of opposite or adjacent States.’

    UNCLOS is all about sharing territorial seas/waters bays etc. IF Spain wanted to delimit Gibraltar’s territorial waters it would have to PROVE that it was necessary.

  4. BritBob

    Of course they are not Spanish waters, they are British waters. You don’t have to convince me. That’s why I had written it in inverted comas, maybe I should have put the inverted comas to enclose what they are now saying happened, but I thought I didn’t need to as it is so obvious the disparity of what the RGP and the spokesperson for the GC said and what the AUGC are now saying happened.
    The problem arises when the GC are told that they are Spanish waters when their government has not got what it takes to go to the international courts of justice, but instead prefer to risk other’s lives and limbs in a futile attempt by force and not by legality to prove that Gibraltar has no waters. Garcia Margallo also said beside William Hague when he went to complain about Gibraltar “harassing” the fishermen, that it was up to Gibraltar to lay its laws on fishing. That was almost two years ago. That he has also said that they were not sure about their winning the case if taken to court, does not seem to hinder the continuous illegal incursions. So I wouldn’t pay much heed to what he says from one day to the next. Its seems very much ad hoc governance to me and if this is allowed to continue it will only get worse and not better.

  5. @BritBob

    There you go again. You know very well that Spain has never accepted jurisdiction over UK unilaterally declared ‘British Gibraltar Territorial Waters’. Spain does not consider any of the so called ‘incursions’ as illegal. In this regard, you might have noticed that every time British authorities challenge Spain State vessels in those waters the reply is always the same.

    In fact, as the Gibraltar Chronicle has acknowledged: ‘British Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed in the House of Commons earlier this month that there had been 496 incursions in 2013 and 112 during the first three months of this year.

    Britain responds to each of those incursions with a diplomatic protest – in the form of a note verbale – in which it makes clear to Spain that the waters around the Rock are British and that the incursions are an unacceptable violation of British sovereignty.

    But a response to Chronicle questions filed under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act has shed light on how the diplomatic exchanges over the incursions have become a routine tit-for-tat in which each government sets out its respective view on jurisdiction. For every British complaint about British sovereignty being violated, Spanish diplomats in turn file a response insisting that the waters are Spanish.

    “It is customary for Spain to reply with a note verbale when receiving one from the UK, though there are instances when this practice is not followed,” the Foreign Office said in its response to the Chronicle.

    For example, an NV [note verbale] protesting incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters would normally engender a corresponding NV from Spain restating the position of the Spanish government in respect of the waters around Gibraltar.’

    For those who may be having problems understanding this – Spain will continue to completely ignore all attempts by the UK to enforce jurisdiction over those waters. If the Gibraltarians have a problem with this then perhaps they should suggest to their British colonial overlords that the UK should comply with UN General Assembly Resolutions which require that the UK discuss with Spain the decolonisation of Gibraltar.

  6. FurtherBeyond It is irrelevant what Spain does and does not accept. Under UNCLOS Gibraltar has its own territorial waters and IF Spain believes that it is ‘necessary’ to delimit what has been awarded, then Spain has to do this via arbitration.

  7. There you go again! You know full well that this pretence of not accepting British jurisdiction is just a farce by the current PP Government whose Foreign Minister himself said that he wasn’t sure of the legal standing of his position. Spain had, up to the PP entering into Government always accepted the British jurisdiction of these waters, whether she wants to admit this publicly or not. The years since the signing of UNCLOS and before is proof of it, read your history. Maybe blasting Spain out of the waters is not the British way of doing things and would rather take the diplomatic and democratic route while waiting for this government to end its term in office or get kicked out by its own people. We have all the time in the world and are not going to start shooting at tiresome mosquitos with cannon balls because these mosquitos tend to fly off somewhere else when the big boys are in port.

  8. addendum: I should add with all due respects to the GC as they are just doing what they are ordered to do, and even they have questioned previously the “intelligence” of being used as a political tool rather than being left to what they are supposed to be doing, together with the RGP and Navy which is patrolling the Bay to get rid of drug smuggling and such which is what they had been doing with great success previously.

  9. It is about time the Spanish people woke up to the fact that the Spanish government are using Gibraltar to distract them from their own terrible internal economic problems of high youth unemployment and draconian tax policies.

    It is also about time that Royal Gibraltar Police and The Royal Navy were re-equipped with better surface craft, and in greater numbers in order to dissuade the Spanish from their ridiculous and careless actions.

    If the Spanish want to get heavy about things, they should have a look across the Gibraltar Straights at their two little pieces of Morocco.

    I am Irish, and it is about time the UK put a stop to continuous incursions of British waters and interference by a foreign police power. Is Gibraltar to be another Crimea in the eyes of the Spanish? I should think not!!

  10. @IntheName

    You can choose to believe that it is only the ‘big bad’ PP that does not accept the UK unilaterally declared ‘British Gibraltar Territorial Waters’. However, you are simply refusing to face the facts and living in febrile fantasyland.

    Spain has never accepted jurisdiction over UK unilaterally declared ‘British Gibraltar Territorial Waters’. A simple example will suffice to burst your fabricated illusion. In 1984 Spain made the following reservation on signing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:

    ‘The Spanish Government, upon signing this Convention, declares that this act cannot be interpreted as recognition of any rights or situations relating to the maritime spaces of Gibraltar which are not included in article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht of 13 July 1713 between the Spanish and British Crowns. The Spanish Government also considers that Resolution III of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea is not applicable in the case of the Colony of Gibraltar, which is undergoing a decolonization process in which only the relevant resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly apply’.

    At the time the PSOE under Felipe González Márquez was in power in Spain. I’m afraid you will have to invent another fantasy to sustain your fevered illusions. I would suggest that you look at some reputable history books rather than Gibraltar based propaganda sites.

  11. Tom It’s all about UNCLOS and sharing the Bay instead of making false pretences that Gibraltar has no territorial waters. ICJ UNCLOS determinations have already found that territorial waters cannot be delimited unilaterally (as the Spanish imply) and that the median line in bays between territories takes priority over any claims of ‘historic title.’ Both sides can then work together effectively to deter criminal activity.

  12. Bob, if Gibraltar hadn’t dumped a load of rocks in disputed waters, none of this would be occurring now. Gibraltarian hard line government can do what they like knowing Britain will back them up. As for fishing rights in the area, there are more fish in lake Windermere than the areas which are disputed. Smuggling has always been a problem which in fairness should have been policed better on both sides years ago!

  13. @FurtherBeyond, you know perfectly well that the declaration entered by Spain on ratification of UNCLOS has absolutely no legal effect. It does not modify the terms of UNCLOS in the slightest, and UNCLOS has been ratified by Spain. Get used to the fact that whatever Spain’s private opinion on the matter, Gibraltar has a right to territorial waters under UNCLOS.

    No waters were mentioned in the 1668 Treaty of Lisbon ceding Ceuta to Spain, not even a port was mentioned, yet Spain claims waters for Ceuta under UNCLOS. Spain’s position regarding Gibraltar has absolutely no coherence…

  14. FurtherBeyond

    Irrelevant comments.

    ‘The Court observes that under 310 of UNCLOS, a State is not precluded from making declarations and statements when signing, ratifying or acceding to the Convention, PROVIDED THAT THESE DO NOT PURPORT TO EXCLUDE OR MODIFY THE LEGAL EFFECT OF UNCLOS IN THEIR APPLICATION TO THE STATE WHICH HAS MADE A DECLARATION.’ (ICJ delimitation, Judgment, Romania/Ukraine, p78, para 42.)


    ‘No delimitation between States with opposite or adjacent coasts may be effected UNILATERALLY by one of those States.’
    (ICJ Gulf of Maine case, p57, para 112 (I).

  15. FurtherBeyond

    What is more relevant is that the UN recognises that Gibraltar has territorial waters and that these waters correspond with the limitations set out by the British Government and NOT the Spanish claims.

    It was recently pointed out that according to the International Maritime Organisation, a United Nations agency which maintains a comprehensive regulatory framework for all matters maritime, including charts delineating sea borders between states, that the Spanish had built part of one of their marinas within British Territory.

    The reason that Margallo refuses to take the sea border dispute to the ICJ or the UN is because the UN would tell him he was wrong. So would the ICJ. The United Nations has unequivocally stated that Gibraltar does have territorial waters and that they are the limits currently claimed by Gibraltar and the United Kingdom.

    If Margallo took the matter to the UN or ICJ, then the United Kingdom would be most delighted, because Spain would be internationally humiliated as a bully. This would add further strength to Morocco’s claims on Ceuta and Melilla, as well as the Catalans.

    Spain has already sent warships into Gibraltar waters, but they dare not trespass like the Guardia boats. They know that they are allowed the right of innocent passage, but the moment that they linger in Gibraltar waters, uninvited, then they are a trespasser. Moreover, the Spanish Navy is no match for the Royal Navy and they know it. It would be humiliating for Spain to have one of their warships detained by a Royal Marines boarding party.

    If Spain ups the ante in a tit for tat row, then eventually, as the British Government has predicted, there will be loss of life. In which case, Spain will be forced to back down in shame for trespassing in British waters.

    The longer that Spain keeps this up, the more British people decide that they want out of the EU. Brussels is no ehlp to stopping Spain’s bad behaviour, but without the United Kingdom in the EU, Germany cannot bail out Spain’s debts and Spain would be bankrupt. By their actions, the Spanish Government is cutting their own throat. But then they do not care as long as they can distract from the many scandals. The politicians bribery, the Royal family’s fraud, the shame of a country where 1 in 3 people is out of work, whilst the rest of Europe coming out of recession.

    Spain will lose this confrontation. The only question is how stupid they will look when they accept defeat. Maybe, like Argentina, the white flag of surrender will become the Spanish national flag in future.

  16. Th Guardia Civil will continue to provide much needed security in the waters around Gibraltar.

    As Tom has very well pointed out, smuggling is a major issue that has not been handled correctly on both sides of the border. The Government of Gibraltar imposes low VAT on petrol, tabacco and alcohol not because it wants its citizens to spend the day driving around the rock, smoking three packs of cigarettes while getting drunk, but because it is targeting citizens on the other side of the border.
    The only real legitimate economic activity in Gibraltar is tourism as in any other part of Southern Spain.

  17. Indeed, I note your expression in “the waters around Gibraltar”,I am sure that you actually mean “the waters around Gibraltar waters” given that the Spanish authorities have no jurisdiction in another state’s waters?

    I would further express to you that the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Royal Navy are well enough equipped and well capable of dealing with illegal activities within their waters without interference or incursions by a foreign power. What the Spanish guards are doing is going to result in somebody getting seriously hurt.

    Let me assure you that we never stood for the British armed forces moving South of the border into the Irish Republic on the Royal Navy entering Irish waters. This only happened less than 10 times over decades, as indeed did the Irish army and navy several times unwittingly cross into Northern Ireland. When these incursions happened on either side, the situation was quickly resolved in a proper manner. Looking at the continuous incursions by Spain into The sovereign waters of Gibraltar, I would be given the order, put a hole in that boat an make it sink!

    Likewise, the people of Gibraltar should not stand for the Spanish police and navy moving across the borders of Gibraltar.

  18. The arrival of a British SSN in Gibraltar waters this Saturday morning is a reminder to Spain that their navy is at grave risk if they were to enter British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and carry out any belligerent acts. The British Government is prepared to defend Gibraltar and her people from any aggression.

    If Spain were to increase the tension by sending their ships into British sovereign waters around the Rock, then they must expect their boats to be discouraged from such activity and eventually boarded and detained.

    No other nation in Europe would tolerate such behaviour from their neighbour as Spain has shown to British Gibraltar. I’m encouraged by the fact that the Irish Navy recently arrested a Spanish fishing boat in their waters, 100 miles from Cork. Spanish boats get a lot closer than 100 miles.

    If the Guardia Civil do not want their boats to end up as permanent additions to the artificial reef, they and Madrid had better heed the warnings. Unless the Guardia Civil officers are prepared to face a long prison term for impersonating the proper legal authority within British jurisdiction, then they had better keep to their side of the Bay of Gibraltar.

    On the other hand, if they do intend to trespass in British waters, then they had better say farewell to their wives and children every morning as if it is the last time, because as the British Government has warned, if Spain continues with these incursions then there will be, sooner or later, loss of life.

  19. @Nigelpwsmith

    The loud and incessant bleatings from the UK and its colony in Gibraltar every time they are presented with the reality that Spain does not accept British jurisdiction in those waters belie your assertions I’m afraid.

    Given the hysteria that accompanies every so called ‘incursion’ by Spain, one would expect that the UK would be keen as mustard to try to legally enforce its alleged ‘rights’ through international processes.

    The fact that it studiously chooses not to speaks volumes about the alleged ‘legitimacy’ of its unilateral claims. It may be that the UK is still smarting from the fact that the UN General Assembly has been calling upon Great Britain to negotiate a transfer of the territory of Gibraltar to Spain since the 1960s: (see e.g. Res. 2429(XXIII), 18 Dec. 1968 (67-18:34): and cf. Res. 3286(XXIX), 18 Dec. 1974 (adopted without vote); despite the expressed wishes of the Gibraltarians in favour of the status quo).

    Until the UK is able to enforce its alleged ‘rights’ through legitimate international processes, Spain will continue to completely ignore British attempts to assert unilateral jurisdiction in the Bay of Algeciras.

    The rest of your comments are simply puerile bravado.

  20. Indeed FurtherBeyond, could you please comment on: Ceuta and Melilla, and how the Spanish navy forcibly threatened Moroccan nationals who had landed on a rock about 50m2 off the coast of one of these enclaves, claiming that this is Spanish terrority?

    If I am to understand your argument correctly, you would also back Germany laying claim to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad? This enclave was actually part of Germany prior to and during WW2. After the war, the Soviets exiled the German population to Russia and planted the enclave with Russian military personal and their families. So, I am to understand that you would fully back the Kreigsmarine (German Navy) moving into Konigsberg waters (as it was prior to WW2), interfering in their jurisdiction and then crying when a German sailor is injured? Are you for real?

    Fair play to the Irish navy, they take no messing from the Spanish, and over the years I have witnessed quite a number of Spanish fishing vessels being arrested, their gear confiscated and heavy fines imposed and if not paid within 6 months, the trawler been sold to defray costs and collect the fines.

    Why can’t you address the above and admit that the Spanish government are only “attacking” Gibraltar to distract the Spanish from the hopeless economic situation that Spain is in and can never get out of. One day the Spanish population may awaken to find that countries like Germany and the United Kingdom actually own their country!!

    It also sounds to me as if Nigel probably knows more than he is letting on to know, therefore, it is either a brave or an idiot civil guard that would dare cross into Gibraltar waters illegally. The Royal Navy seems to be running out of options and need to put a stop to this circus of distraction for the Spanish civil population.

  21. >FurtherBeyond

    Most Gibraltarians feel that the British Government doesn’t do enough to deter the Guardia intrusions. The British Government does not ‘bleat’ but instead protests according to the standard diplomatic procedure to register a grievance against another state.

    Only Spain does not conform to normal diplomatic rules which is why the Gibraltarians feel that Britain should take a more robust approach to protecting their territory. You only have to look at the recent opening of diplomatic bags by Spain which is one of the worst breaches of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Conventions in recent history by any nation – and that includes despotic dictatorships like North Korea, Zimbabwe and Syria.

    All of these protests add up cumulatively as evidence that Spain’s misbehaviour is not that of a civilised country abiding by diplomatic norms.

    However, whenever Spain ratchet’s up the tension, as they did recently by sending ‘Research Vessels’ into Gibraltar waters, then this forces Whitehall to act. You may recall that Royal Navy warships visited the Rock days later and one Type 45 actively patrolled British waters showing a great deal of seamanship skill by manoeuvring a cruiser size destroyer in and out of the ships in the Bay as if it was a slalom course.

    Contrary to what you say, Britain has considered taking Spain through the International Courts. They have not done so as yet, because there has not been loss of life as a result of Spain’s actions. However, it’s very likely that someone will lose their life, either in the Bay, or in the intense heat of the border queues during this summer. If this does happen, then the UK may very well make this a cause celebre, to avoid UKIP using it as ammunition in their desire to leave the EU.

    As for the UN resolutions, the ones you refer to are General Assembly resolutions and therefore NOT binding on the UK or Gibraltar. Furthermore, it is Spain that is refusing to comply with the tripartite agreement including Spain, Britain and Gibraltar. The United Nations would be in breach of their own Charter, were they to ignore the rights of Gibraltarians to Self Determination. The fact is that Britain would very much like Gibraltar to become an independent nation if they so wished, but it is Spain that is preventing this. Whilst the citizens of Gibraltar wish to remain British, the British Government is obligated to defend them with all the means at their disposal.

    If the Guardia Civil are stupid enough to cause fatalities during their illegal incursions, then they may find that they are detained by Royal Marine units. If the Spanish attack the Royal Marines, then the attacking unit may be on the receiving end of something more substantial. Spain is a broken nation financially. If they don’t want to be humiliated internationally as the Argentines were, they had better start acting like the EU & NATO partners they are supposed to be.

  22. FurtherBeyond

    Those old resolutions from the 60’s are no longer relevant and haven’t been mentioned by the General Assembly since 1974. What is relevant is international law – the 4 ICJ Advisory Opinions and 1 ICJ Judgment that all confirm ‘that the right to self-determination is applicable to ALL non-self-governing territories.’

    There are NO exceptions to this. On 17th October 2008 the UN Fourth Committee rejected a motion to place restrictions on the ‘right to self-determination’ affirming it to be a fundamental right.

    Decolonisation means what it says, it doesn’t mean re-colonisation.

  23. As stated previously, the Guardia Civil will continue to provide much need security in the waters around Gibraltar.

    Gibraltar is not a sovereign nation and neither is it part of the United Kingdom, it is a colonial leftover of the British Empire and a pain in the neck for both Britain and Spain.

    At least we have the support of the European Union!!

  24. Ciudadanos, Is one correct in assuming that you are of the opinion that the waters around Gibraltar are not currently provided with ample security by Her Majesties Royal Navy and Gibraltar Police? If then in your view this is the case, it then strengthens the argument for a much increased RN and Gibraltar Police presence in Gibraltar waters, let’s do it now!!

    The Channel Islands and The Isle of Man are not part of the UK, they are Crown Dependencies, with the UK responsible for their foreign policies and defence, just like Gibraltar. Gibraltar does not need a foreign power (Spain) interfering in their affairs of state. Perhaps Spain would like to create another Crimea? Why not have a go? That is if you want the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines to sort out the Spanish military forces and take the Spanish populations mind off the fact that Spain is a failed nation – economically?

    Can you please address my earlier references to : “Ceuta and Melilla, and how the Spanish navy forcibly threatened Moroccan nationals who had landed on a rock about 50m2 off the coast of one of these enclaves, claiming that this is Spanish territory?”

  25. @Irish Paddy

    Gibraltar is run by five families who control the major sources on income on the rock. One of those sources is tabacco, the RGP have as little interest in stopping tabacco smuggling across the border as the Government of Gibraltar.

    If there was a real interest in tackling smuggling, all the Government of Gibraltar would have to do is increase the VAT of the products that are being smugglers across the border, it is that simple.

    The UK needs to show leadership and put an end to this bizarre little territory once and for all.

  26. @Irish Paddy
    Gibraltar is run by five families who control the major sources on income on the rock. One of those sources is tabacco, the RGP have as little interest in stopping tabacco smuggling across the border as the Government of Gibraltar.
    If there was a real interest in tackling smuggling, all the Government of Gibraltar would have to do is increase the VAT of the products that are being smuggled across the border, it is that simple.
    The UK needs to show leadership and put an end to this bizarre little territory once and for all.

  27. We had smuggling from Northern Ireland into the Republic for many years, TV sets, videos, alcohol, tobacco, washing powder, petrol, diesel and lots more. Today tobacco and spirits from Spain and other countries are smuggled into the UK and Ireland by long distance lorry drivers. This is a fact of life. Ireland overcame most of these problems by almost matching the tariffs as charged in the UK, but alcohol still pours over the border. It was our problem, not the UK’s problem, it was up to us to lower the taxes, we did and the tax receipts to the Irish government increased. Are there border queues? Not at all, I usually pass through it at 120kph. Does the Irish navy and police invade the waters of Northern Ireland, which is British? Not at all, we all live in harmony, and god only knows I would never wish to see the Northern Ireland type troubles erupt in Southern Spain and Gibralter.

    Most nations have some sort of corruption built into them, you will also find it in Spain, as indeed in Ireland. There is one family that rules nations such as: Dubai, Monaco and many other places on this earth. I am sure there are very wealthy families in Spain making policies by a back door means. At the end of the day, these 5 families that you speak of are not in your country, so why worry about them? I doubt very much, as you elude to, that the Royal Gibraltar Police are corrupt.

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