Monday, 4 February 2013

Water Incursions - Panorama Newspaper reports

Panorama Newspaper in Gibraltar covers Water Incursion problems

 We seem to have many articles written but not a lot of action forthcoming. Below is a letter and then a few reports written recently to give as much information as possible.

Monitoring season
Dear Sir,

The strange thing about news is when nothing is said or written, however we cannot say the same as to the daily incursions into BGTW.
I have been at pains to find out when the monitoring season begins and ends but no success, having said this I have nevertheless been able to ascertain the dates for game shooting, which runs in some cases from August through to February depending on the species, the only common denominator is that in shooting it involves the use of guns, from what one can gather in the monitoring game it very much depends on the stock of paper and I am not going to specify which kind.
I trust that the FCO will get down from their high horse ‘pronto’ and stop procrastinating, otherwise the Quixotic Nation will continue to gather momentum in imposing her illegal acts as being the interpretation of International Laws.

Yours faithfully,


Guardia Civil now target local port users: Bland
vessel accosted in British Gibraltar waters!

By Leo Olivero
In another serious example how the Guardia Civil continue to stamp their authority and jurisdictional control in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, and following the incident of only a few days ago where they took executive action stopping a pleasure boat close to the detached mole, yesterday the same Spanish paramilitary forces targeted another area of our waters this time when they forcibly attempted to accost a local vessel belonging to one of Gibraltar’s principal stevedoring companies MH Bland.

Panorama was informed that yesterday morning one of MH Bland’s workboats the Swordfish was proceeding to the North Anchorage Opposite the Runway Area to service a locally based bunkering vessel. When the local vessel was nearing the anchored vessel a Guardia Civil launch suddenly appeared behind the Bland’s vessel at the same time demanding it to stop. The local vessel did not stop and continued to its schedule destination.

We are also reliably informed that on arriving by the anchored locally based vessel ,who we understand belongs to local bunkering operators Aegean Bunkering Gibraltar , the Swordfish as is customary attempted to manoeuvre alongside. At this point the Guardia Civil launch in what was described as a hostile and illegal manner (particularly as it was happening in BGTW) attempted to get alongside the Swordfish, the Spanish GC officers at this point making preparations to board the local vessel.
However, on seeing what was about to happen, the master of the Swordfish accelerated and pulled away from the close confrontation and dangerous contact that was about to happen, leaving the area and reporting the matter to the local authorities.

A GDP vessel was later seen in conversation with the said Guardia Civil vessel.
This incident is no more serious than the daily incursions of the GC into our waters. Although there is an important difference, in that now it seems the Guardia Civil are turning their attention to an important area of Gibraltar’s Port Activity - Our Port Users And With It The Rock’s Economy!

It clearly looks as if the Spanish Authorities not only have instructions to enter local waters at-will, but also to exercise jurisdictional control and now it seems to disrupt the safe and effective services of the Port of Gibraltar.
I suspect we shall now hear, that this is considered of Deep Concern and a Serious Incident – words or phrases which by the day are quickly losing their intended meaning - because the situation has now gone beyond all that!

How far will the UK Government allow Spain to consolidate and strengthen its position in BGTW before it actually does something useful is anyone’s guess.
However, the uninspiring approach and the total lack of an effective policy by the Foreign Office, to combat the daily threat to British sovereignty of our waters , has clearly provided Spain with the required impetus and momentum to continue pushing these illegal barriers further and closer to our shores.

Only a few years ago the British Foreign Secretary, replied through a spokesman after the previous government asked for reinforcement at sea, saying ‘The Royal Navy is already present on the Rock and their role is well defined’

This is quite true the RN presence in Gibraltar is clearly defined why shouldn’t the Gibraltar Squadron be ready to support us. With a mission statement that says that the Gib Squadron “is to contribute to the maritime defence and security of Gibraltar and, where necessary, the prosecution of offensive maritime operations in order to allow British Forces Gibraltar to support military operations as directed by Her Majesty’s Government.”

It’s no good the British Government telling the people of Gibraltar that the Royal Navy’s role on the Rock is well defined if they from London are holding back the only UK military response to the growing Spanish aggression and threat to territorial waters.

As I said at the end of my article yesterday - WTF IS HAPPENING?



 Governor raises unlawful incursion with Europe

The Governor is aware of the recent unlawful incursions, including yesterday morning, by Spanish Guardia Civil vessel Rio Cedena. The Guardia Civil yesterday attempted to exercise jurisdiction over a working vessel inside BGTW. This follows Tuesday’s unlawful attempt by the Guardia Civil to exercise jurisdiction over a pleasure boat in BGTW.

The Governor said: ‘These continuing actions by Spain are a matter of deep concern. The recent increased level of unlawful incursions into BGTW by the Guardia Civil is an unwelcome and unacceptable escalation of what is already a difficult situation. The recent petition I received was a potent reflection of the depth of feeling in Gibraltar. I continue to liaise closely with the Chief Minister and HM Government of Gibraltar in relation to these events.

'The Convent has ensured that my views on these recent developments and attempts by Spanish State vessels to exercise jurisdiction are raised directly with the Minister for Europe.’

Warnings were read by the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron and the vessel departed BGTW. The British Embassy Madrid will make an immediate formal protest with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs about today’s incident.



 Then and now, the Foreign Office appeasers
win the day to the detriment of Gibraltar

How true that history tends to repeat itself. The weakness being displayed by the Foreign Office as regards the current threat on an issue of sovereignty is similar to their posture in the 1960s when the Franco regime imposed a series of escalating restrictions that culminated with the full closure of the frontier.

Then, and now, there were calls for effective action but the appeasers within the four walls of the Foreign Office won the day - and Gibraltar suffered 20 years of hardship.

The question now emerges if UK inaction will simply encourage the Spanish government to escalate their sovereignty claim to British Gibraltar territorial waters.
A previous Governor once said to me, as he pointed at a map, that Gibraltar was a small dot, and that wider issues often came into play affecting what the Foreign Office might be prepared to consider.

When I asked another Governor why Britain would not utilise in Gibraltar's favour her position in the European Union, as the Spaniards did in respect of advancing their own position against the Rock, he said that Britain did not like to be seen to be taking advantage of their EU position - presumably because 'gentlemen' are not meant to behave in such fashion!

I could say some of the many other things I have heard within The Convent, where they often feel as exasperated as Gibraltarians do about Foreign Office inaction, but what I have already mentioned suffices to make manifest why a so-called 'friend, ally and partner' behaves on a different wavelength.

Foreign Office mandarins are well versed in history, often based on acts perpetrated by their own forerunners, and surmise that possession is nine-tenth of the law, which means in today's predicament that if Spain persists in behaving as if Gibraltar's waters belonged to them, their position can only be bolstered.

In fact, if you read some of the conclusions by the International Court of Justice about territorial claims elsewhere, you will quickly find that the country seen to have been administering a disputed area has much to gain in acquiring that disputed area.

Taking a leaf from the Foreign Office book, those in the Palacio de Santa Cruz are clearly seeking to establish that there is a dispute in the waters that surround the Rock - and that they have been exercising jurisdiction and control over them, while the Foreign Office has remained engulfed in their impassive stance, as if they did not care.

In the sixties, the Spanish had a plan, which was to squeeze Gibraltar to the point of surrender, or that is what they thought they could achieve.
So, their plan unfolded as any Gibraltarian school child at the time could have told the grown-ups at the Foreign Office. But the Foreign Office adopted a one-way dialogue of the deaf, espousing the kind of words and phrases they knew Gibraltarians would like to hear, while in effect they did nothing concrete about resolving the problem.

Right now, the Spanish have a plan about Gibraltar's territorial waters, and given that the Foreign Office remains impassive, they will seek to escalate the problem in the knowledge that no obstacles of substance will come their way.

Thus, Foreign Office policy will simply be encouraging that, like a snowball, the problem will grow to the point where a solution will not be easier, but more difficult.
It has happened in the past and it could happen again. Is it not high time that Gibraltar mobilized its forces?




Spanish vessels allowed to invade our waters
with impunity - on a daily basis!

By Leo Olivero
Like me, countless people are wondering just what the hell is happening with the fishing issue if actual fishing and breaking local laws are anything to go by, there is no doubt that nothing much is actually being done to stop this illegal practice in BGTW.

Fishing As Usual

Spanish fishing vessels are returning daily to local waters in packs to rake, fish, destroy and take away all the marine life they fancy. At the same time accompanied by the also illegal presence of the guardia civil who have become more then a regular feature in BGTW and who acutely appear to be establishing (in their mind at least) territorial control, especially in their on-going mission of protecting their fishermen in BGTW.

In effect, what the Guardia Civil are doing in their present task of protecting the fishermen is to blatantly take ‘Executive Action’ and at the same time Exercise Jurisdiction and Control in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. It’s no more than that.

Clear Similarities Between Current Dispute and The One in 1999

I have been writing about this matter in Panorama practically none stop for nearly 10 ten years. Not only that, but as most readers know I have personal experience from a senior officer policing perceptive regarding this issue as I was directly involved and commanded the policing response of the 1999 version of the so called fishing dispute.

There appears to be similarities emerging between what transpired in 1998/9 to what is unfolding at present - not only from a ‘Policing Aspect’ but also from a ‘Political One’

In this sense, the fishing situation in my opinion not only appears to be deteriorating but it is becoming confused. Illegal fishing now appears to be explicitly allowed by the local authorities who it seems, do not appear to be doing anything at all to put a stop to it, in line with current government policy. This latter point has become not only contentious but a very confusing one for members of the public.

Police Say No Arrests or Reports for Process In Last Two Months

We are witnessing a situation where law enforcement agencies, and there I include the RGP, GDP and the Royal Navy apparently arrive at a scene where local laws are being infringed by Spanish fishermen and do nothing and leave. In the case of the Guardia Civil, they are clear and blatant incursions into British territorial waters, yet nothing is effectively being done, to put a stop to such illegal activity.

Answering a question by Panorama an RGP spokesman confirmed that during the last two months there have been no arrests or anyone reported for process for contravening nature protection offences out at sea.

I have from the start or since March last year, when the government took the decision to annul the ‘illegal’ 1999 fishing agreement kept an open mind. I have largely supported most of what has been done and said by the government regarding their policy particularly their stand in wanting to uphold the 1991 Nature Protection Act that safeguards all marine habitats and species in BGTW.

It’s all very nice for Government to announce it will not allow laws (nature protection act) to be broken and-so-on and-so-forth, including that the Police are not controlled by government and are free to use their own discretion in enforcing applicable laws preventing the use of illegal fishing methods. But I have my own views on that!

In my mind, this is not happening; it is similar to 14 years ago in 1999!

‘Politics and Policing’ whether intentional or not (in 1999 it was certainly intentional) are again clashing with each other and making a dog’s dinner with what should be a straightforward process of keeping Gibraltar laws in check. At the end of the day policing and enforcing laws is pretty straightforward. You commit an offence, you are reported or arrested and then face the music in court. But when direct or indirect political influence gets into the mix problems start, believe me, policing in this scenario is not that straightforward at all! The latter comments I have said many times over the years.

To be fair to the police over the years they have been placed in a very difficult situation regarding this issue. Political influence over the police whether direct or intentional or not, is an important issue within the context of this matter.

In my opinion, the political aspect surrounding the fishing/sovereignty issue has taken priority over the vital policing enforcement aspect-making element. This creates a negative situation that hinders the police to make rational policing operational decisions based on those laws that have been broken and nothing else.

Convent’s Two-Tier Level of Concern

However from a Convent and Foreign Office perspective matters are just as confusing. The small pleasure boat incident we reported on where the GC vessel exerted jurisdiction and control in BGTW when it took executive action to stop the boat in question - An incident, which the foreign office people at the convent later described as a ‘Matter of Deep Concern’. This is no more ‘Deeply Concerning’ as the daily incursions by the guardia civil when they accompany the fishing vessels to literally exert the same authority in our waters. This has now become the norm and obviously, it seems, no one is deeply concerned about!

Personally, I feel that to a degree, My Intelligence is Being Insulted - we are being told one thing about laws and what have you, but another completely different situation is happening before our very eyes. The breaking of the nature protection laws will not be tolerated we are told but they are being not only tolerated but ignored - daily!

The Fishing Report What Next?

Frankly, I am concerned with respect to the FISHING REPORT whenever it is finally released. A situation has been allowed to develop regarding fishing and GC incursions, a situation in fact, that in my opinion will make it extremely difficult for whatever accompanying action plan the report has in store, particularly by way of protecting Gibraltar’s environmental and other laws in BGTW.

In November, the Spanish ambassador to London was summoned to the Foreign Office after the UK lodged a protest about Spanish warship that had entered territorial waters.

At the time David Lidington at the foreign office said he ‘condemned these provocative incursions and urged the Spanish government to ensure that they are not repeated.’ He also said “We remain confident of UK sovereignty over British Gibraltar territorial waters and fully committed to protecting the interests of the people of Gibraltar”

Well I can tell Mr. Lidington at the foreign office that incursions have not only been repeated, but have intensified daily. I can also tell the good Mr. Lidington that if what we are witnessing is the UK definition of effectively protecting our interest as he said late last year - THEN GOD HELP US!

Illegal Fishing Continued Yesterday!

The scenario was pretty much the same yesterday with four Spanish fishing vessels who again appeared on the eastern side and continued raking local waters for shellfish.

Ridiculously, these illegal fishing practices of raking, Spanish fishermen know they cannot do in their own national waters. This simply because laws in Spain do not allow it. They also know that if they do the Guardia Civil will arrest or fine them and confiscate their equipment. But these same fine guardia civil officers then accompany the fishermen to local waters to rake, rape and take away whatever they like from our waters and now, whilst the authorities here also sit and watch!

As They Say on Facebook ‘WTF’ is Happening?


Anne-Marie Struggles 

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