THE government of Gibraltar have reported a ‘serious incursion’ took place on Saturday evening when a Spanish state vessel attempted to assert its authority, not only inside British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, but within a few metres of the shoreline.
At around 18.30, a Spanish customs vessel (SVA), the Aguila IV, chased a Gibraltar-registered pleasure boat within BGTW and inside the demarcated buoys at Camp Bay.
The pleasure boat had been stationary about one nautical mile off Europa Point when it was circled by the Aguila IV which had approached from the Bay making its way past the North Mole.
It had earlier been given the UNCLOS warning over radio and did not respond.
When approached by launches from RGP and GDP and by a Navy RHIB, the crew of the Spanish vessel claimed that, earlier, the pleasure boat had been off Estepona and had failed to stop when asked to do so.
Having been informed that it had no jurisdiction inside BGTW, the Aguila IV was then escorted into Spanish waters.
The two occupants of the pleasure boat later claimed when questioned that they were fishing off Europa Point when the SVA vessel had requested their documentation. They had moved into Camp Bay and called for assistance.
‘This is another glaringly obvious example of a Spanish state vessel attempting to assert its authority well inside our territorial limits. It could hardly be clearer that the vessel had no jurisdiction to operate at Europa Point and even less just a few metres from a beach at Camp Bay,’ said the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia. ‘Quite apart from the serious political issues raised by this matter, it is also dangerous for a state vessel to operate in this way inside ademarcated bathing area. This is illegal in the face of internationally-recognised Laws of the Sea.’
This latest development adds to the already complicated relationship between Britain and Spain, after the sinking of concrete blocks last year for Gibraltar’s artificial reef project.
Spain complained that these blocks would cause problems for their fishing industry, and shortly afterwards imposed strict controls at the border with Gibraltar.
Britain and Gibraltar argued that these checks were politically motivated but the European Commission ruled that the border checks had not infringed any European law.
Speaking last year Europe Minister David Lidington said: “According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the waters around Gibraltar are indisputably British territorial waters, under United Kingdom sovereignty, in which only the United Kingdom has the right to exercise jurisdiction.
“Her Majesty’s Government takes a grave view of any attempt by Spain to exert authority or control within British Gibraltar territorial waters and considers such incursions as a violation of our sovereignty.
“Her Majesty’s Government will continue to take whatever action we consider necessary to uphold British sovereignty and the interests of Gibraltar, its people, its security and economy.”
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