Spanish sources repeatedly claim they do not recognise that the waters around Gibraltar as being ‘British Gibraltar Territorial Waters,’ despite having signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982).
As a result there are regular incursions by both official and unofficial vessels which can result in formal complaints from the British authorities.
On Sunday 17th February 2019 there was the most serious of recent incidents when the Spanish warship P44 Tornado slowly sailed through BGTW and instructed anchored vessels to move.
The P44, based in Las Palmas, is the fourth ship of the Meteoro class, a new kind of offshore patrol vessels created for the Spanish Navy known as a Buque de Acción Marítima (BAM).
It is armed with 76 mm gun, two MK 38 machine guns two Browning machine guns and two MINIMI machine guns along with portable weapons such as HK rifles, pistols, shotguns, etc.
Recordings of the marine channel 16 confirm the Spanish ship ordering two commercial vessels to leave British waters on the East side of the Rock on Sunday. This resulted in a furious response from the Gibraltar Government which described the incursion as A foolish and senseless provocation and warned Spain that Interfering with shipping under Gibraltar’s control could create confusion at sea and put safety of navigation at risk.
The UK Government initially denied there had been an incursion, only to later issue a statement expressing “concern” after the Spanish Government confirmed the actions of its naval vessel.
The incident was also recorded on vessel tracking websites showing the Spanish warship entering BGTW at around 16.20 and leaving nearly an hour later.
An article in 'El Pais' reported that A launch and a zodiac from the Royal Navy went out to meet the Tornado , which sailed away slowly with the weapons uncovered and with the military operating them. It claimed the Spanish Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, had insisted on Tuesday in statements to RNE that the Navy ship acted in accordance with legality and within jurisdictional waters and Spanish sovereignty.
This morning there was a small demonstration at Convent place.
HE the Governor and the Chief Minister came out of their offices to talk to the protesters.
By Jim Watt - Gibraltar