The Royal Gibraltar Police vessel Sir William Jackson has been transferred to the Gibraltar Port Authority, whose port launch General Elliott had been out of action since June due to engine problems.
The police vessel, which belongs to the Gibraltar Government, entered service in 2013 at the height of the fishing dispute and will now enable the GPA to extend its operational activities in British Gibraltar territorial waters.
While the GPA is able to call on other emergency services and even private vessels as required, the lack of its own vessel created obvious limitations to its response capabilities.
Last Friday for example, a Spanish pleasure boat issued a Mayday distress call after running into trouble off Camp Bay.
After receiving the Mayday call, the Duty Port Officer contacted nearby vessels to assist the boat.
A spokesman at the GPA confirmed that the authority’s own vessel, the General Elliott, had suffered major engine problems and had been inoperable since June.
The spokesman said the Spanish vessel was “not in danger” and therefore no emergency services were needed to help them.
The Spanish boat initially received assistance from the Mon Tarik, a harbour vessel operated by a local ship agent, and later by Spain’s maritime rescue service, which requested permission to enter BGTW to assist the stricken vessel and tow it back to Spain.
“The Gibraltar Port Authority has responsibility for search and rescue operations, as well as to deploy assets from other emergency services, as and when required,” a government spokesman said.
“The port launch is the first vessel deployed.”
“However, when there are mechanical issues, the GPA will use any asset available to assist and if necessary it will engage with private operators, who will work under the GPA’s direct instructions.”
The transfer of the vessel Sir William Jackson to the GPA will now bolster the port’s response capability once it undergoes conversion work in line with its new duties.
Commissioner of Police Ian McGrail said the transfer was achieved following discussions with the acting Captain of the Port, Manuel Tirado.
“This was achieved by understanding organisational capabilities and capacities, but most importantly through collaboration, with the aim of providing better service to all sea-going activities in and around Gibraltar,” Mr McGrail said.
Mr Tirado said the vessel will be serviced at Gibdock as part of the conversion for its new tasking and is expected to be operational for the Gibraltar Port Authority in the coming weeks.
“The transfer of this asset underpins the excellent collaboration which exists between the agencies with a maritime remit in Gibraltar,” he said.