A picture taken on July 21, 2016
shows UK nuclear submarine HMS Ambush moored in the port of Gibraltar
during an unscheduled stop. ©AFP
answers from authorities in London after a British nuclear submarine
collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of disputed Gibraltar.
a Thursday statement, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said it “has asked
the British embassy in Madrid for urgent explanations over the extent of
the breakdown and all relevant information regarding the circumstances
of this incident.”
An HMS Ambush submarine was carrying out a
training exercise when it collided with a vessel and was forced to duck
in Gibraltar located on Spain’s southern tip.
of Defense attempted to allay fears, saying the nuclear plant on board
the submarine, which was equipped with torpedoes and cruise missiles,
However, Antonio Munoz, a prominent activist from
environmental group Ecologistas en Accion in Spain, said more
information was needed amid fears of a potential leak in the ocean
“We don’t know exactly where the collision
happened, where the other vessel is, whether the vessel that collided
with the submarine was a freighter, an oil tanker… We don’t know
whether there was a leak from the vessel,” Munoz said.
Spaniards have voiced opposition to the presence of British nuclear submarines in Gibraltar in the past.
A boarder post is pictured backdropped by the “Rock” in Gibraltar on June 24, 2016. ©AFPThe
latest accident revived memories of another submarine incident at the
turn of the century, when Britain’s HMS Tireless was forced to dock in
Gibraltar for repairs for nearly a year after a crack was found in a
cooling pipe near its nuclear reactor. Its presence caused outrage in
Gibraltar and southern Spain.
The incident also threatened a
diplomatic crisis between Madrid and Londan as the sovereignty of
Gibraltar remains a hot-button issue within Spain, especially in the
wake of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
Gibraltar, with a
population of over 30,000, is located on the southern tip of the Iberian
Peninsula and has an area of 6.7 square kilometers (2.6 square miles).
territory was ceded to Britain in 1713 as part of the Treaty of
Utrecht. But Spain over the past decades has made it clear that it wants
The territorial row escalated after Britain’s decision to leave the European Union in June.
the referendum in the UK, Madrid said Brexit had opened up “new
possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time.”
renewed claims to sovereignty over Gibraltar prompted London to
dispatch the HMS Ambus to the disputed territory in late June.