Monday, March 14, 2011


Spain’s minister of the interior, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, recently officially received the new Guardia Civil patrol boat, the Río Segura, in the port of the Bay of Cádiz. It is the largest vessel to be acquired by the maritime service of the Guardia Civil. It will largely be assigned to service on the high seas in the fight against drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

This is the continuation of a process started in 2007 when the first two ocean going vessels were acquired by the Guardia Civil – the Río Tajo and the Río Miño. These are now also backed up by reconnaissance aircraft.

The Río Segura is 73 metres long, weighs 2,100 tonnes and can be on patrol for 60 days. It has a crew of 39 people but in the case of a rescue on the high seas can take on board another 80. It also has a tele-medicine system on board.

The ministry of the interior also announced a new Guardia Civil unit with its HQ in Cádiz’s port that will serve the Strait area and will use the Río Miño with 32 crew starting operations in April.

Now the first thing that has to be said about the Río Tajo and Río Miño and the new super patrol vessel the Río Segura with relation to Gibraltar is that the British Government is fully aware of their existence. The first two have taken part in a number of international drug operations working with SOCA – the UK’s organized crime agency. Indeed it is likely that the Royal Gibraltar Police either through SOCA or links with the Spanish law agencies have also been involved. Hence in the future all three patrol boats will work with the British police and security agencies in the international war against drugs and people trafficking.

So what is the Gibraltar perspective on this? First it is the RGP and the local port and customs agencies to decide what size of vessels they need to perform their duties in the waters surrounding the Rock. In the end it is a political decision whether they receive these resources or not but it should be a professional request for the equipment to meet the task. So what do they need, have they asked for it, have they received it?

Secondly the waters around Gibraltar are British so it is for London and not No 6 to decide whether the patrol boats used by the Royal Navy are up to the job or whether more fire power is required.

Certainly in Rubalcaba’s statements no mention was made of Gibraltar or its waters in relation to the Segura, Tajo or Miño. That is not to say one or more will not appear around Gibraltar either in the course of its duties or as a perceived incursion in to Britain’s territorial waters.

When those incursions occur then the Gibraltar Government of the day should speak out openly to denounce the violation of its waters – and let both London and Madrid know of its anger. However it is for Britain to take action – yet it has to be realised that the days of sending a gun boat, even if Britain still had one, have long since gone.

The British police agencies work closely with the ministry of the interior as well as the Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional. Hence the British Government should make plain that whilst the Segura, Tajo and Miño work on the high seas with SOCA to combat international crime it is not acceptable for the same vessels, or their smaller versions, to violate Britain’s international recognized territorial waters around Gibraltar. Cooperation works two ways.

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