The UK Minister for Armed Forces, James Heappey, said the UK is “hugely committed” to investing in Gibraltar’s military infrastructure as the Ministry of Defence confirmed major projects costing up to £50m on Monday.
Mr Heappey’s unannounced visit to Gibraltar came on the heels of major UK investment in Gibraltar military projects since his last visit in 2020.
In a statement, the MoD confirmed that between £40m to £50m had been committed to projects including the refurbishment of the South Mole, replacement of communications infrastructure and the reinstatement of the King’s Lines Oil Fuel Depot.
The projects are all in the design phase, but come against the backdrop of wider defence investment in Gibraltar.
Just last March, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK would continue defence investment in its “global hubs”, including Gibraltar, as part of a strategic shake-up drawing on lessons learned on the battlefields of Ukraine.
The short stopover saw Mr Heappey visit British Forces Gibraltar and meet with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, Deputy Governor Marc Holland, Commander British Forces Tom Guy, and RAF Station Commander Tom Harvey.
On Monday, as Mr Heappey left an official engagement in The Convent for another in No.6 Convent Place, he told the Chronicle the UK will keep on investing in Gibraltar’s infrastructure.
“We are hugely committed to investing in our military infrastructure here in Gibraltar,” Mr Heappey said.
“It’s a hugely important strategic facility for the United Kingdom and we will keep investing.”
The investments, in particular the King’s Lines project, underscore Gibraltar’s role as a strategic ‘lily pad’ for the UK military and its allies.
Locally military planners confirmed earlier this year that the fuel depot would be put to good use if it was up and running, adding it was a possibility that had been explored for months.
The King’s Lines Oil Fuel Depot has lain unused for years with works to survey the state of the pipes undertaken.
These infrastructure projects mark continued increased investment in the military locally, including the refurbishment of The Tower at HM Naval Base.
Military activity has also increased with a three-fold increase in maritime usage, with around 80 ships and six submarines visiting each year.
This year has seen a rise in visiting troops, with a two-fold increase and around 2,300 expected this year, making use Gibraltar’s tunnels for subterranean training.
Since Mr Heappey’s last visit, the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron also has brought into service two Patrol Launches, HMS Cutlass and Dagger, specifically designed for Gibraltar.
Mr Heappey last visited Gibraltar in September 2020 and this short visit was made en route to a subsequent destination in Africa.