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18th August 2015, 16:48

Government obtains "innocent passage" legal opinion

A vessel can only be considered to be on innocent passage through British Gibraltar Territorial Waters if it's moving continuously and expeditiously, and is not engaged in any activities that are prejudicial to Gibraltar or the UK. That's the basis of expert legal advice received by the Government on the question of innocent passage as it relates to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

In November last year, the Government announced it had commissioned a legal opinion on the definition of innocent passage given discussions that were underway at the time relating to the procedure for categorising the entry into BGTW of foreign state vessels. Following the latest spate of incursions by Spanish vessels this month that provoked a formal protest by the UK, GBC asked Number Six Convent Place whether it had received this advice.

In reply the Government confirmed that it had. The legal opinion further states that when it appears objectively from the foreign vessel's behaviour that its purpose in passing through BGTW is to assert its country's sovereignty claim over the waters, its passage would not be deemed to be innocent under international law. Number Six says it will continue to pursue this matter with the Foreign Office on the strength of the legal opinion it's received.