Spanish Environment Minister Miguel Arias Cañete said bunker suppliers could be fined
Spain has moved to outlaw bunkering in waters surrounding Gibraltar, although British and Gibraltar officials say the nation has no legal authority there, the Financial Times reports.
The Spanish government said Friday that it would change environmental law to prevent ships from refueling at sea in protected maritime zones, which it argues include a European Union (EU)-protected area encompassing much of the sea surrounding the peninsula.
With tensions around Gibraltar intensifying, Spain could claim the law as a reason for its police to take action against bunkering companies in the area.
Spanish Environment Minister Miguel Arias Cañete, said the ban, which could take effect at the start of next year, would mean fines for bunker providers who continued outlawed operations, and he said such offshore operations are an environmental hazard.
Miguel Arias Cañete, Environment Minister, Spain
If there is an oil spill within a port, there are corrective measures
"If there is an oil spill within a port, there are corrective measures to control the spill," he said.
"That is not the case at sea."
Bunkering and other shipping services are an important industry for Gibraltar, which offers easy access for ships in the Mediterranean to refuel and change crews.
The most recent chapter in the ongoing dispute over Gibraltar started in July, when the British territory began building artificial reefs offshore with concrete blocks, something Spain argued interferes with its fishermen in the area.