Navy response to incursion draws criticism in Spain

The Royal Navy was accused this week of ‘harassing’ a Spanish customs vessel which was offering assistance to a Spanish-flagged yacht which ran into trouble in UK waters off Europa Point last week.

Officials here reject claims that a Royal Navy Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) sailed unsafe during the February 2 incident.

The Chronicle reported at the time that the Gibraltar Squadron intervened when a crew member from the Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera (SVA) vessel Fenix ​​attempted to board the yacht.

Although it was a compliant boarding of a vessel in distress, the decision was seen by the British government as the Spanish crew taking unlawful executive action in British waters.

The SVA left the area after being warned by the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar Squadron and were escorted out of British waters. The UK said it would file a diplomatic protest.

Permission was then given to a Spanish maritime salvage vessel to tow the yacht back to Spain.

But a few days after the event, the Spanish media began to run stories saying the Royal Navy RHIB had rammed the Spanish Customs ship.

Video emerged yesterday filmed by a Spanish customs agency showing how the Navy’s RHIB approached the patrol boat and the yacht, colliding with the SVA vessel as it blocked its approach to the yacht.

Spanish media, law enforcement bodies and politicians said the maneuvers were dangerous, which officials on this side of the border said were not.

Either way, the Spanish government will likely make a diplomatic protest over the incident.

Spanish media also highlighted two other incidents on the same day, including one in which the Royal Navy and other Gibraltar agencies prevented a Spanish survey vessel from carrying out operations in British waters in the bay.

They also reported that HMS Pursuer had conducted live-fire exercises in international waters east of the Rock, complaining that the Royal Navy had failed to give advance warning.

This was, however, rejected by The Convent on Wednesday.

A spokesperson said: ‘The vessel observed all necessary safety protocols.

He added that at no time during any of the three incidents did Royal Navy or Gibraltarian vessels enter Spanish territorial waters.

There was another incident on February 2, although it did not make Spanish headlines.

That night, an SVA ship with flashing blue lights approached the shore at night near Emerson’s Place and Waterport Terraces, alarming many locals.