In a recent parliamentary written response, it has been revealed that Spanish naval vessels have been recorded in Gibraltarian territorial waters on 11 occasions over the past six months.
Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, posed a question to the Secretary of State for Defence regarding the frequency of such occurrences. In response, James Heappey, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, detailed the monthly breakdown:
“The Ministry of Defence has recorded the presence of 11 Spanish naval vessels in Gibraltarian territorial waters in the last six months.”
The monthly breakdown is as follows:
- April: 2 incidents (1 Innocent Passage, 1 Surface Incursion)
- May: 2 incidents (2 Innocent Passage)
- June: 2 incidents (1 Innocent Passage, 1 Surface Incursion)
- July: 2 incidents (2 Surface Incursions)
- August: 2 incidents (2 Surface Incursions)
- September: 1 incident (1 Surface Incursion)
In the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), “innocent passage” refers to the right of a ship to pass through the territorial waters of another country, provided the passage is not prejudicial to the peace, good order, or security of the coastal state.
Territorial waters extend up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline of a coastal nation, and within these waters, the coastal state has sovereignty. However, UNCLOS recognizes that ships of all states, whether coastal or landlocked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through territorial seas.
For a passage to be considered “innocent,” it must not be harmful or threatening to the coastal state.