Huge Spanish patrol boat has two-hour stand-off with tiny Royal Navy ship off the coast of disputed territory Gibraltar
A 300ft Spanish patrol boat was seen off by a 50ft Royal Navy vessel yesterday after it encroached on an exercise off the coast Gibraltar.
The episode had echoes of historic maritime victories against the Spanish by Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805 and Sir Francis Drake against the Armada in 1588.
The huge Spanish vessel overpowered the tiny Navy ship that was carrying out practice drills
In yesterday’s incident tiny HMS Sabre was involved in manoeuvres with a Royal Navy RHIB, when the Spanish vessel – the Tornado – blatantly sailed into the training drill yesterday morning where it stayed for two hours.
As it passed into territorial waters the Spanish national anthem could be heard over Channel 16, a maritime communications frequency but it was not clear where it had come from.
The captain of HMS Sabre warned the intruder away but it did not impact on the exercise.
A Royal Navy insider confirmed the Spanish national anthem had been heard by radio operators at the Royal Navy base on Gibraltar.
A source said:”HMS Sabre politely requested the Spanish vessel, which is a good bit larger than she is, to leave Gibraltar’s territorial waters with a sovereignty warning. They extend for three miles around Gibraltar and initially it ignored the request which was made several times but she did eventually sail away after a couple of hours.”
Screenshots from shipping websites show how Tornado left the Spanish port of Ceuta yesterday morning before doubling back and heading towards Gibraltar’s Europa Point, clearly entering the exercise area.
The rocky outcrop has been a British territory for more than 200 years and has been hotly disputed with Madrid and tensions have risen in the run up to Brexit.
Last week ‘colony’ in the UK and the EU launched into a new war of words over the Rock today as Gibraltar was branded a draft laws to give visa-free travel to Britons after March 29th.
Downing Street swiftly moved to slap down the jibe which is the latest ploy by Spain to take advantage of Brexit to stake its claim on the Rock.
In yesterday’s exercise – which was widely advertised by the Gibraltar authorities – ships were warned that a ”high speed manoeuvring and blank firing” would take place.
It’s a clear provocation from Spain.
Source in Gibraltar
Passing ships who needed to contact the Royal Navy vessels involved were advised to use Channel 16 – which the Spanish did to broadcast their national anthem.
A source in Gibraltar told The Sun:”Spain is supposed to be a NATO ally but it now does this during an exercise – a clear infringement of Gibraltar territorial waters and it comes just weeks after they let Russian ships use their ports when they were asked not to.
”HMS Sabre issued a sovereignty warning to Tornado after it entered Gibraltar territorial waters and ordered her to leave immediately – there was an exercise going on and they would have known plus channel 16 was used to broadcast their national anthem. It’s a clear provocation from Spain.”
Last night the Royal Navy referred all enquiries to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
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In a statement the FCO said:”We can confirm an incursion by the Spanish navy occurred this morning. As with all incursions, the Royal Navy challenged the vessel. When challenged, the Spanish navy vessel subsequently left British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. Incursions are a violation of sovereignty, not a threat to it.
”We have no doubt about our sovereignty over Gibraltar. The UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their wishes, nor enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.”
The Spanish Government in Madrid and the Spanish Embassy in London was also contacted for comment but there was no immediate reply.
AFP or licensors The UK and the EU launched into a new war of words over the Rock[/caption]
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