A Spanish warship cut across the bow of a merchant ship sailing into the Bay of Gibraltar yesterday, in an incident logged as an unlawful incursion that has also raised concern about navigational safety.
The P73 Vigia sailed close to the vessel Al Dasma just off Europa Point, prompting crew on the tanker to issue five warning blasts on the vessel’s horn.
The incident is being investigated by both the Gibraltar Port Authority, which was coordinating the tanker’s movements as it arrived for bunkers in Gibraltar, and the UK Government.
The Spanish warship was shadowed by vessels from the Gibraltar Squadron, which finally escorted it from British waters.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office confirmed that the incident had been logged as an unlawful incursion and would be protested, adding that officials were still gathering detailed information on the sequence of events.
The Gibraltar Government, which is responsible for navigational safety in British waters around Gibraltar, was also investigating the incident.
“The incident which has been reported on appears to be one of dangerous seamanship as well as an illegal incursion,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said.
“The Government has asked for a full and detailed report in order to take the matter up at the highest levels.”
The latest incursion came just a day after union chiefs in the UK told the House of Commons Defence Committee that Spanish shipbuilder Navantia should be ruled out of contention for a £1billion deal to build Royal Navy ships because of Spain’s repeated incursions into British Gibraltar waters.
A British consortium and four overseas firms including the Spanish company are in the running for the contract to construct three Royal Navy auxiliary vessels.
Ross Murdoch, Chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions’ maritime forum, told the Commence Defence Committee during a debate on the construction of the Fleet Solid Support ships that the contract is “vital” to the UK shipbuilding industry.
Additionally, Mr Murdoch flagged repeated incursions into British Gibraltar waters by Spanish naval vessels as a reason not to award the tender to the Spanish bidding company.
He said: “At the moment the media seems to be reporting that Navantia in Spain are favourites to win FSS, and our members are saying to us, “With all this going on in Gibraltar, are we seriously going to award contracts to them?”
Pic by David Parody