Photos by Johnny Bugeja.
BY GABRIELLA PERALTAShare
11th May 2022
In a first event of its kind in Gibraltar, businesses from different sectors on the Rock were given expert advice on counter-terrorism and security related issues during the first part of a two-day ‘Action Counters Terrorism’ conference.
At the Rock Hotel’s Khaima, business representatives heard how they could take steps to help deter hostile attacks and increase their security.
While there is no identified threat to Gibraltar or change in the security posture here, the hope is that sessions of this nature will strengthen the partnership between law enforcement agencies and the wider community and highlight the need for awareness.
The presentation was closed to the general public and the advice was discreet and confidential, for obvious reasons.
The conference given to businesses could save lives, and attendees were asked not to take notes and to ensure utmost confidentiality, with the concern being this information could be counter-productive if shared widely.
Attending the event were a combination of speakers including staff from the UK Centre of Protection and National Infrastructure (CPNI), UK National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO), and the City of London Police, who presented sage advice to representatives from local businesses, including from family businesses and retail, to bankers and online gaming, and to some of the RGPs key strategic partners locally.
Opening the event, the Governor of Gibraltar and Co-Chair of the Gibraltar Contingency Council, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, commented on Gibraltar’s security threats and its response to mitigate those risks.
"Apart from the management of Covid and the long running saga over a Brexit treaty for Gibraltar, that will maintain and hopefully enhance the prosperity and standard of living in Gibraltar, the only thing that keeps me awake at night is our personal and physical security," Sir David told guests during a part of the session open to the media.
"Living in Gibraltar with it's wonderful weather, high standard of living, access to the water, access to Europe and simply the charm of it's people, multi-faith, multi-cultural all happily living together, one can perhaps be lulled into a very false sense of security."
Sir David compared Gibraltar to the town of Accrington in Lancaster as the population size is similar, but said the likelihood of an attack in Gibraltar was greater.
"Arguably the risk of attack is much higher, it has an international and military airport close to the general population, and an international frontier, and is accessible from two ends, from the sea where everyday hundreds of pleasure craft and other boats pass within metres of the runway itself," Sir David said.
Hedescribed how Gibraltar has military facilities, a civilian population and a power plant, all within a compact area the size of a small country estate in Hampshire.
He noted too Gibraltar’s economic reliance on digital services and how this could be impacted by cybercrime, and reflected on the Rock’s role during the detention of the tanker Grace 1 for breaching EU sanctions on Iran.
"One starts to realise that small Gibraltar has reassumed the strategic significance that perhaps diminished gradually after the end of the Second World War," Sir David said.
The Governor noted too the war in Ukraine and its impact on the security situation, reminding delegates that Russia had placed Gibraltar on its list of so-called “unfriendly countries” and that he had been personally identified as an unfriendly leader.
"My face plastered over the internet alongside the premiers of many great nations," he said.
He added: "Gibraltar is in the spotlight of a nation that has shown brutal terror elsewhere."
Sir David said Gibraltar needs to recognise its own importance, its own vulnerabilities and the way in which these can be addressed.
"Deterrence is one measure, [and] thankfully we have one of the most operational and highly concentrated fleets of Royal Navy, Royal Gibraltar Police, Gibraltar Defence Police and Customs vessels anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day on the water," he said.
"We have excellent electronic surveillance all around our coastline and elsewhere."
"Gibraltar is difficult to get on to, but not impossible."
Sir David said this is where the RGP, GDP and guard forces step in, and added that awareness is key.
The Commissioner of Police, Richard Ullger, opened the conference and said behind the scenes the RGP works quietly to mitigate terrorist threats, with the support of local and international partners.
"Much of this preventative work is the unseen part of policing," Commissioner Ullger said.
"Which takes up much of our time and our people, but it is one of the most important pieces of work we do constantly to keep our community safe."
RGP Detective Chief Inspector, Paul Chipolina, began work on organising this conference in 2019, but the event was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the content of the presentations covered various aspects such as online security, digital footprints, personal and physical security, and communications.
The event, DCI Chipolina said, came with the view of enhancing the local security posture in the private sector and improving collaboration between the private and public sector.
DCI Chipolina said there were visible measures including Project Servator, an unpredictable and highly visible police deployment which deters crime, and he hopes these kind of visible deterrents will grow.
He added the threat to businesses and Gibraltar has always been present and has grown over the years.
"Events like the Ukraine invasion just serve to highlight and bring it onto the spotlight of the news media and it results in increased [cyber] attacks and thats why the National Cyber Security Centre issued advisory notices to the public and private sector, and also to the general public across the UK and the Government of Gibraltar replicated those advisories several weeks ago to local businesses," DCI Chipolina said.
He described how threats come from all angles including online in social engineering and phishing attacks.
With life returning to normal following the Covid pandemic and large public events set to return, DCI Chipolina said the RGP and local businesses need to be attuned to any threats.
"We have a Royal visit coming up, we have a public military event coming up, we have sporting events like football matches, all areas of high footfall," DCI Chipolina said.
"It's important that we also engage the business community because they too have a role to play in the areas where they are physically located, and being extra eyes and ears and reporting suspicious activity and acting as a deterrent wherever possible,"
"It is important that we have the business community on board with this and there is a role for the public sector law enforcement and essentially the wider public, as these events occur, to be vigilant, to become confident in reporting suspicious activity and let others play their part in disrupting those threats and taking corrective action."
Rachel Duckett, Supervisor Business Engagement Unit at NaCTSO, said this visit to Gibraltar was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships that can protect and prepare Gibraltar and the UK against a threat.
"'Action Counters Terrorism' is our message here today, and the more we act the more we can continue to keep people safe," she said.
"The next two days will ensure that the National Counter Terrorism Security Office provides businesses with the assured advice and guidance, and this event ensures a standardised approach to our engagement, allowing us to give information in a clear and consistent approach."
Ms Duckett said there has not been an identified threat or risk to Gibraltar, but this is to allow businesses to have the same access to learning as