WITH the Gibraltar National Day (September 10) just around the corner, is the arrival of Royal Navy Flagships, HMS BULWARK, RFA WAVE KNIGHT and RFA LYME BAY more than just coincidence?
The ships arrive as part of a four-month deployment named Cougar 14, an amphibious maritime naval exercise in the region. During the following months, the Task Group will take part in operations with other partner nations throughout the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern waters.
Captain Dean Bassett, the commanding officer of HMS Bulwark, said:
“The deployment not only demonstrates to our partners and allies just how flexible and versatile maritime forces can be – it also physically embodies how the Royal Navy protects the nation’s interests overseas.”
Although mooted as a routine annual deployment, it is a display of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines’ readiness and ability to act and deploy effectively throughout the Mediterranean and Gulf regions.
Whilst both London and Madrid are eager to downplay the timing of the visit of the ships, it is clear that tensions are still running high. The last year has seen many ‘tit-for-tat’ actions.
Most recently Madrid announced it was considering a €50 border crossing fee in retaliation to Gibraltar dropping 70 concrete blocks off the coast which has been seen as an attempt to damage Spain’s fishing industry.
The Task Force is expected to reach Gibraltar on September 9.