The incident occurred on the night of Monday, August 14, involving a Spanish Customs vessel, Aguila 2, entering British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and allegedly restraining crew members of a Gibraltar-registered ship, the ‘Ultimate Predator,’
The UK Government has confirmed that it will formally protest the incident to Spain’s central Government in Madrid. A spokesman from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) stated, ‘The UK Government is aware of an incident on [August 14] where a Spanish customs vessel conducted constabulary actions in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, which constituted an incursion and violation of UK sovereignty. The UK Government will protest this incident to the Spanish Government.’
The Gibraltar Defence Police were present, and the Aguila 2 crew withdrew at 11:00 pm. No6 Convent Place reported, ‘One of the crew members of the Gibraltar vessel appears to have been illegally restrained by a Spanish operative who boarded their vessel despite lacking jurisdiction to take any action within Gibraltar or the internationally recognised British waters around it.’
The vessel was identified as travelling without navigational lights, but HM Customs later confirmed that it was conducting a legitimate crew transfer and that its lights and AIS had malfunctioned. There were no injuries reported.
Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, expressed his dissatisfaction, calling the incident ‘an unacceptable reflection’ of Spanish law enforcement’s failure to recognise Gibraltar’s territorial limits.
He said, ‘The engagement of a foreign law enforcement agency, however, without any communication or coordination with Gibraltar law enforcement, is illegal and unacceptable. The Spanish officers in question have potentially committed offences against Gibraltar law, and I am asking that the matter must be forcefully raised with Spain.’
Picardo further emphasised the need for cooperation but condemned the illegal actions of the Spanish officers. He added, ‘They were out of their jurisdiction, and they were acting illegally to restrain a person in Gibraltar without legal authority. That is worse than unacceptable.
‘I am pleased that the United Kingdom will clarify its position to Spain on this incident. It does nothing to promote the cross-frontier relationships we have worked so hard to build.’
The incident has raised concerns over the future of UK-Spain relations, with both sides seeking to address the matter diplomatically, but the underlying tensions remain evident.