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US warship visits Gibraltar – British press make mountain out of molehill

USNS Carson City.jpg

Credit: Michael J Sanchez/twitter

I opened up my computer today to find a bombardment of news reports that the Royal Navy had “chased” the Spanish out of Gibraltar. However it wasn’t just one source; it was all of the main stream media – it must be true I thought.

The most reputable name on the list and the one that didn’t include a story next to it about Wayne Rooney was from thetelegraph.co.uk – it stated the following:

“A Royal Navy speedboat this morning chased off a Spanish Guardia Civil boat after it reportedly cut across the path of a US Navy vessel visiting Gibraltar”

The rigid-hulled inflatable boat intercepted the Spanish patrol boat, Rio Belelle, after it sailed in front of the transport vessel USNS Carson City, Mailonline reported.

The Foreign Office in London played down the incident, but one witness said the Spanish vessel had been “irresponsible and reckless”.

None of what is written above is worth printing. The Royal Navy don’t use speed-boats, they are reserved for people water skiing in St Tropez. Instead they use something called a Pacific 24 (or to give it its full name BAE Systems Halmatic Pacific 24 RIB). The difference is slight and boring but is the same way a Porsche is not a Ferrari: both fast, both expensive, both make a great noise but they aren’t the same.

Then to use the mailonline as the source is about as sensible as playing Spotify on shuffle at a funeral while trying to find suitable music. “one witness said…” What witness, who? Was it the governor of Gibraltar, or a senior military officer – that’s news! Or was it an 11 year old schoolboy on the beach? – Because then it’s not very important (no offence to the 11year old).

This is irresponsible and inaccurate reporting designed to do nothing more than create a patriotic rage against Spain (oh and sell a few papers or generate online revenue through advertising – to hell with the truth).

Tensions over sovereignty of Gibraltar are as high as it’s ever been. Spain wants it, Britain wants it… everyone wants it; that’s not new.

But have we learnt nothing over what is happening between North Korea and the USA – a lot of hot air and dick swinging has led to a very serious problem developing.

I’m not saying we should back down to the Spanish but nor should we create false hype. This isn’t journalism, reporting or news – this is blowing a story well out of proportion by sailing very close to the wind (no pun intended) with regards to what’s true.

It will be no shock then to learn that a Royal Navy escort will routinely meet vessels coming in and out of port. Just like it does in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Clyde (those are the locations of the Naval bases in the UK in case anyone from The Telegraph was wondering what they meant).

It may however come to shock you that in the photo from The Telegraph’s website the American Vessel is the give way vessel. They were both in a shipping lane and under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (which war ships are not exempt from) Rule 15 – Crossing Situation states:

“When two power-driven vessels are crossing, the vessel which has the other on the starboard side must give way and avoid crossing ahead of her”

rule 15

There are exceptions to the state of the vessel (if it is under sail, fishing, restricted in its ability to manoeuvre etc) but size of the vessel and nationality don’t come into it.

What is probably most likely judging from the static picture and the position of the Spanish vessel in relation to the USNS Carson City’s bow is that nothing happened. Yep – big news. Simply put by the time the US ship reached where the Rio Belelle was it had moved on, therefore nothing happened. Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA) can predict where you will be based on your speed and if a risk of collision exists or not. As well as this all modern ships are fitted with Automatic Identification System (which enables you to determine the other vessels course and speed).

I’ll put my hands up now and say that this is not based on anything other than my analysis that may be wrong, but it may be right. Perhaps the Spanish are playing silly buggers, they have in the past. But this isn’t about whether they have in the past or not, this is about what happened this morning.

And unlike the other media outlets that have spread this story as a failed attempt of a Spanish invasion bravely prevented by the Royal Navy (…in their RIBs) my conclusion is that nothing happened, which I know is far more disappointing and boring to read. A US Navy ship just came into port, from a busy shipping lane – where there were other ships, one of them happened to be Spanish (which funnily enough is nearby).

Let’s not forget that in the last three months the US Navy has lost 17 sailors at sea as two of its ships collided with other vessels, in actual incidents. Messing around with the truth behind stories to make them sound as serious as those is of the utmost disrespect to the memory of the dead.

Shame on The Telegraph.

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