A Spanish Navy warship ordered commercial ships to leave an anchorage off the east side of the Rock on Sunday evening, attempting to exercise jurisdiction within British Gibraltar territorial waters.
The Spanish patrol boat Tornado told at least two commercial ships, the Ivor Accord and the Great Victory, to sail away from “Spanish waters”, even though both ships were anchored well inside British waters.
A recording obtained by the Chronicle of exchanges over VHF radio show how the Spanish Navy crew told the merchant ships that they were “violating the condition of innocent passage”.
At the time, both vessels were anchored awaiting orders in waters under the control of the Gibraltar Port Authority.
They were told to remain at anchor and did not leave the area.
The Royal Navy’s Gibraltar Squadron despatched two vessels, HMS Scimitar and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, to shadow the Spanish ship [main photo above], which was well inside British waters by that time.
The Spanish patrol boat then sailed slowly through Gibraltar waters slowly and out into the strait, sailing close to the coastline as it did so.
A spokesman for the Gibraltar Government said officials were aware of the incident.
“Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar is verifying every aspect of the incident in order to ensure that appropriate action is taking as soon as possible,” the spokesman told the Chronicle.
“Gibraltar VTS ensured that the vessels in question did not act in consequence of the illegal Spanish instructions.”
“There is only nuisance value to these foolish games being played by those who don’t accept unimpeachable British sovereignty over the waters around Gibraltar as recognised by the whole world under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
“It seems there are still some in the Spanish Navy who think they can flout international law.”
“This probably accounts for the state of extremism of some parts of the Spanish political spectrum these days.”
MAIN PHOTO: David Parody. Second photo Johnny Bugeja.