Gibraltar can handle nuclear submarine repairs - MOD tells PANORAMA

by PANORAMA reporter
A second British nuclear-powered submarine has arrived in Gibraltar in the space of about a week.

HMS Trenchant left Gibraltar last Wednesday, and this Monday, HMS Turbulent arrived "for a routine visit for a few days," according to the Command of British Forces.

On the Spanish side of the frontier, an ecology group 'Verdemar' has again protested about nuclear submarine visits to Gibraltar.

The Spanish government last February asked Britain to provide a written guarantee about nuclear submarine visits to Gibraltar, but this has not yet been forthcoming.


Madrid is particularly concerned about nuclear repairs being carried out in Gibraltar, but the UK view is that repairs cannot be ruled out in cases of emergency, as was the case with HMS Tireless which was the subject of a lengthy repair from 2000 to 2001.

A UK military spokesman told PANORAMA yesterday that the Gibraltar naval base incorporates what is known as a 'Z' berth, which caters for the berthing of nuclear-powered submarines. The spokesperson added that, after the 'Tireless' repairs which necessitated the flying out of special equipment, "special conditions and equipment were put in place at Gibraltar for repairs."

Last week, the British government hurriedly issued a press statement after a Spanish government representative in Andalucia had suggested that the British and the Spanish governments had been negotiating an agreement to restrict the use of Gibraltar by submarines. "No negotiations of this kind have taken place," said a UK foreign office spokesman in a statement, repeated in Gibraltar by the Governor's office.

"The British government would not contemplate any such agreement," said the Gibraltar chief minister Peter Caruana, who added in a statement last week: "Nuclear submarine visits to Gibraltar are a matter for UK and Gibraltar. Visits for operational purposes are welcome by the Gibraltar government."

Mr Caruana added: "To our knowledge, it is not the position of the present Spanish government or any previous Spanish government, that it is opposed to visits by nuclear submarines."

The government here says it continues, however, to support the provision of information about visits and reassurances about safety to the Spanish government on the basis of good neighbourliness.

Madrid was so informed about the visits of Trenchant and now of Turbulent.


British Forces HQ yesterday announced the arrival of the Turbulent with this brief statement:

"A Royal Navy submarine, HMS Turbulent, arrived in Gibraltar on Monday 03 Oct 05 for a routine visit for a few days. HMS Turbulent is a Trafalgar class nuclear powered submarine built by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering in Barrow-in-Furness. It was launched on 01 Dec 1982 and commissioned on 28 April 1984."