Tensions stirred up on Sunday (20 November) as the Royal Navy was forced to fire flares to drive out a Spanish research vessel after it allegedly sailed into the British Gibraltar territorial waters (BGTW). The Gibraltar chief minister has called for diplomatic and political action over the incident.

The news about the breach also prompted strong criticism on social media platforms, with many demanding strict action against the Spanish vessel involved.

The research vessel, Angeles Alvarino, reportedly entered British waters while it was investigating the geological risks to the seabed. The Royal Navy's HMS Sabre made attempts to contact the vessel by radio, but failed, following which it fired the warning flares, prompting a quick retreat, the Press Association reported.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The Royal Navy challenges all unlawful maritime incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters (BGTW). We back this up by making formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish government."

Fabian Picardo, the chief minister of Gibraltar, said: "I have discussed all the tactical decisions taken and am satisfied that they have been designed to demonstrate untrammelled sovereignty, jurisdiction and control over BGTW.

"I congratulate the Royal Navy for the work they have undertaken so far in very challenging circumstances in light of the reckless disregard for safety displayed by the official Spanish vessels involved."

Tensions are high after a Spanish research vessel sailed into the British Gibraltar territorial waters ( in picture), prompting the Royal Navy to fire flares to drive it away - File photo Reuters

"Diplomatic and political action must now support the excellent work undertaken by the navy personnel with limited resources," he added. The chief minister also said he had been in contact with the commander of British Forces, Cdre Mike Walliker, over the developments in the incident.

Meanwhile, twitter was flooded with messages calling for strict action against the Spanish vessel, with some suggesting blacklisting the vessel and the crew. Some doubted domestic issues triggered the Spanish aggression in British territorial waters.