Suspected drug smugglers rammed a police vessel during a chase on Sunday afternoon, the Royal Gibraltar Police said.
No one was hurt in the incident, which nonetheless brought to the fore the risks faced by law enforcement officers patrolling British Gibraltar territorial waters.
This is the latest in a string of similar incidents that has prompted Police Commissioner Eddie Yome to order a review of current rules of engagement for high-speed pursuits at sea.
“This is yet another reminder of the dangers that the officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police and other law enforcement agencies face on a daily basis whilst combating drug smuggling in the Straits of Gibraltar,” Police Commissioner Eddie Yome said.
“I am grateful to the officers of the Marine Section for their bravery, professionalism and determination when attempting to intercept suspect vessels, in what are becoming all too frequent occurrences.”
“I am mindful that the safety of the officers must be a prime concern. I have asked for a review of our rules of engagement at sea.”
“I have also asked for techniques to be researched and equipment to be considered, to assist in deterring and combating such actions and affording the officers the best possible means of protecting themselves.”
Shortly before 5pm, officers of the RGP Marine Section were on patrol aboard the interceptor vessel Sir John Chapple.
The crew had earlier chased a 12 metre Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat [RHIB], with four occupants, out of British Gibraltar territorial waters.
While stationary off Europa Point they were alerted to the presence of two RHIBs about 4 miles off the eastern end of the runway.
Shortly after the crew were informed that one of the two vessels was now navigating slowly in a southerly direction and about three miles east off Eastern Beach.
The crew then proceeded north on an interception course.
On nearing the suspect vessel the navigator of the RHIB carried out an evasive manoeuvre which culminated with a direct thrust at the RGP RHIB, colliding with the stern and damaging one of the four engines.
The suspect RHIB was approximately 13 metres in length and was carrying four occupants. As a result of the collision they made good their escape.
The RGP officers, operating their RHIB on three engines, then gave chase to the smaller second vessel which was further to the north and carrying six occupants.
This vessel made good its escape into Spanish waters. Two of its occupants were later apprehended by the Spanish authorities once onshore.
The RGP officers then returned to base with their damaged RHIB escorted by a Gibraltar Defence Police RHIB which had deployed to assist.
Last night the RGP tweeted about the incident.
Minor setback after 1 of our engines
rammed by cowards – We'll CONTINUE to deny Drug Traffickers the use of BGTW pic.twitter.com/nCZHccSv7Q
— Royal Gib Police (@RGPolice) February 7, 2016