Bay of Gibraltar
The Bay of Gibraltar is a bay
Headlands and bays
Headlands and bays are two related features of the coastal environment.- Geology and geography :Headlands and bays are often found on the same coastline. A bay is surrounded by land on three sides, whereas a headland is surrounded by water on three sides. Headlands are characterized by high,...

 at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

. It is around 10 km (6.2 mi) long by 8 km (5 mi) wide, covering an area of some 75 km² (29 sq mi), with a depth of up to 400 m (1,312.3 ft) in the centre of the bay. It opens to the south into the Strait of Gibraltar
Strait of Gibraltar
The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. The name comes from Gibraltar, which in turn originates from the Arabic Jebel Tariq , albeit the Arab name for the Strait is Bab el-Zakat or...

 and the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...


The shoreline is densely settled. From west to east, the shore is divided between the Spanish municipalities
Municipalities of Spain
The municipalities of Spain In other languages of Spain:*Catalan/Valencian , sing. municipi.*Galician or , sing. municipio/bisbarra.*Basque , sing. udalerria. are the basic level of Spanish local government...

 of Algeciras
Algeciras is a port city in the south of Spain, and is the largest city on the Bay of Gibraltar . Port of Algeciras is one of the largest ports in Europe and in the world in three categories: container,...

, Los Barrios
Los Barrios
Los Barrios is a small town and municipality in the south of Spain. It is part of the province of Cádiz, which in turn is part of the Andalusia region. It belongs to the Campo de Gibraltar comarca...

, San Roque, La Línea de la Concepción
La Línea de la Concepción
La Línea de la Concepción is a town in Spain, in the province of Cádiz in Andalucia. It lies on the eastern isthmus of the Bay of Gibraltar on the border with the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, with which it has close economic and social links...

 and the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. The larger part of the shoreline is Spanish territory, with part of the eastern half of the bay claimed by Gibraltar.

The east and west entrances to the bay are marked respectively by the lighthouse
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

s of Europa Point
Europa Point
Europa Point, also called Great Europa Point, is the southernmost point of Gibraltar. At the end of Rock of Gibraltar, the area is flat and occupied by such features as a playing field and a few buildings...

 in Gibraltar and Punta Carnero
Punta Carnero, Spain
Punta Carnero is a headland on the coast of Spain, near the city of Algeciras, where the eastern end of Gallows Hill descends 200 metres to meet the Mediterranean Sea...

 to the west of Algeciras.


The bay is a breeding area for several dolphin
Dolphins are marine mammals that are closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from and , up to and . They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating...

 species, notably the Common Dolphin
Common dolphin
The common dolphin is the name given to two species of dolphin making up the genus Delphinus.Prior to the mid-1990s, most taxonomists only recognised one species in this genus, the common dolphin Delphinus delphis...

, Striped Dolphin
Striped Dolphin
The Striped Dolphin is an extensively studied dolphin that is found in temperate and tropical waters of all the world's oceans.-Taxonomy:...

 and Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose dolphins, the genus Tursiops, are the most common and well-known members of the family Delphinidae, the family of oceanic dolphins. Recent molecular studies show the genus contains two species, the common bottlenose dolphin and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin , instead of one...

, and is also visited by migratory whale
Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to suborder Odontoceti . This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga...

s. It is a popular destination for tourist whale-watching trips from Algeciras or Gibraltar.

The other major draw for tourists is scuba diving
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

: the area is rich with wrecks and historical artifacts such as crashed Avro Shackleton
Avro Shackleton
The Avro Shackleton was a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft for use by the Royal Air Force. It was developed by Avro from the Avro Lincoln bomber with a new fuselage...

 aircraft and Sherman tanks from the Second World War, and ancient anchors from Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

n and Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....



The area around the bay in Spain is heavily industrialised with extensive petrochemical
Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane....

 installations near San Roque (such as the CEPSA oil refinery
Oil refinery
An oil refinery or petroleum refinery is an industrial process plant where crude oil is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas...

 and Acerinox
Acerinox, S.A. is a stainless steel manufacturing conglomerate group based in Spain. The company was founded in 1970, and initially received technical support from the Japanese firm Nisshin Steel. Nisshin continues to hold approximately 15% of Acerinox as of April 2010. The headquarters are in...

 stainless steel
Stainless steel
In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass....

 manufacturing plant) and working port
A port is a location on a coast or shore containing one or more harbors where ships can dock and transfer people or cargo to or from land....

s in both Algeciras
Port of Algeciras
The Port of Algeciras is the port and harbour of Algeciras, city in the province of Cádiz, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain.It is 7th busiest container port in the continent of Europe and 32nd in the world with a trade volume of 3,324,310 TEUs in 2008 and 9th busiest port by cargo in...

 and Gibraltar. The bay's waters are used by a considerable number of large and medium sized ships, notably oil tankers and freighters
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

. Oil bunkering activities are also heavily carried out.


Due to all these facts and the heavy industries along the shoreline, airborne and marine pollution are serious problems in the area. Environmental groups have raised concerns about the risks of oil spills and other types of pollution, particularly in the light of the bay's ecological importance. In May 1998, an accident at the Acerinox plant
Acerinox accident
The Acerinox accident was an incident of radioactive contamination in Southern Spain. In May 1998, a caesium-137 source managed to pass through the monitoring equipment in a Acerinox scrap metal reprocessing plant in Los Barrios, Spain. When melted, the caesium-137 caused the release of a...

 in Los Barrios
Los Barrios
Los Barrios is a small town and municipality in the south of Spain. It is part of the province of Cádiz, which in turn is part of the Andalusia region. It belongs to the Campo de Gibraltar comarca...

, caused the release of a radioactive cloud. The radiation was not detected on site, but was eventually detected in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

. The radioactive levels measured were up to 142 times higher than normal. Due to the large number of ships that transit the strait, there is always a danger of accidents and in recent years there have been a small number of sinkings, groundings and collisions in both Gibraltar and Spain resulting in oil spills (New Flame, Samothraki, Sierra Nava, Tawe or Fedra
MV Fedra
M/V Fedra was a Liberian-registered bulk-carrier cargo ship. It ran aground and smashed against Europa Point, the southernmost tip of Gibraltar on 10 October 2008 following severe gale force winds measuring 12 on the Beaufort scale...


Last report of Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

 on the pollution in Spain targets the Bay of Gibraltar as suffering from "chronic pollution" due to hydrocarbons, not only as a result of accidents, but also as a consequence of regular unballast, ship-to-ship bunkering or tank cleaning operations. During 2009, environmental organizations, both Spanish and Gibraltarian, have called the Tripartite Forum to implement measures to protect the Bay of Gibraltar.

A joint statement was issued by concerned environmental groups on both sides of the frontier in relation to the trilateral forum meeting held in 2009.

CEPSA Refinery

The refinery continues to cause concern with close co-operation between various groups monitoring its activities.

In 2007 a particularly serious sulphur incident happened as well as intermittent flaring episodes. The impacts of such upsets on surrounding neighbourhoods had provoked outrage and public protest which led to the Consejería de Medio Ambiente of the Junta de Andalucía to order an independent audit aimed at investigating such incidents.


Fuel on ships is known as bunkers, and the process of fueling termed bunkering.

Due to its geographical position on a major shipping route, Gibraltar is one of the largest bunkering ports in the Mediterranean, followed by neighbour Algeciras
Algeciras is a port city in the south of Spain, and is the largest city on the Bay of Gibraltar . Port of Algeciras is one of the largest ports in Europe and in the world in three categories: container,...

 in Spain. The ports in the Straits — Algeciras, Ceuta
Ceuta is an autonomous city of Spain and an exclave located on the north coast of North Africa surrounded by Morocco. Separated from the Iberian peninsula by the Strait of Gibraltar, Ceuta lies on the border of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ceuta along with the other Spanish...

 and Gibraltar — are the second bunker market in Europe, behind the so-called Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp area.

In Gibraltar 4300000 t (4,739,938.6 ST) of bunkers were delivered in 2007 compared with just 840000 t (925,941.5 ST) in 1990 and bunkering is now the main activity within the Port of Gibraltar. Of a total of 8,351 deep-sea vessels which called at Gibraltar in 2007, 5,640 were supplied with bunkers.

Algeciras recorded bunker sales of about 2400000 t (2,645,547.1 ST) in 2008. From the 24,535 vessels called at the Port of Algeciras Bay, 2,173 took bunkers.


The area around the Bay of Gibraltar has been inhabited for millennia and the bay itself has been used by merchant shipping for at least 3,000 years. The Phoenicians are believed to have had a settlement near Gibraltar and the Romans established the town of Portus Alba ("White Port") on the site of modern Algeciras. Later peoples, notably the Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 and the Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

, also established settlements on the shoreline during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and early modern period, including the heavily fortified and highly strategic port at Gibraltar, which fell to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1704.

The bay's strategic position at the mouth of the Mediterranean has made it a much-contested body of water over the centuries. It has been the site of several major sea battles, notably the Battle of Gibraltar
Battle of Gibraltar
The naval Battle of Gibraltar took place on 25 April 1607 during the Eighty Years' War when a Dutch fleet surprised and engaged a Spanish fleet anchored at the Bay of Gibraltar. During the four hours of action, most of the Spanish fleet was destroyed....

 (1607) and the Battle of Algeciras Bay
Battle of Algeciras Bay
The Battle of Algeciras Bay refers to two separate battles in July 1801 between an allied French-Spanish fleet and the British near Gibraltar. In the first battle, the French drove off an attack by the larger British fleet and captured one ship of the line...

 (1801). During the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 launched human torpedo
Human torpedo
Human torpedoes or manned torpedoes are a type of rideable submarine used as secret naval weapons in World War II. The basic design is still in use today; they are a type of diver propulsion vehicle....

es from Algeciras on several occasions in attempts to sink British ships moored in the Gibraltar harbour, with mixed success due to the work of Commander Crabbe
Lionel Crabb
Lionel "Buster" Crabb OBE, GM was a British Royal Navy frogman and MI6 diver who vanished during a reconnaissance mission around a Soviet cruiser in 1956.-Early life:...


More recently, there has been (and remains) a persistent dispute between Spain and Gibraltar over British sovereignty in the Bay of Gibraltar. Spain claims not to recognise British sovereignty in the area save for a small portion around the Port of Gibraltar, but the UK has asserts a normal 3 nmi (5.6 km; 3.5 mi) limit around Gibraltar, with a demarcation in the middle of the bay. This has caused tensions between the two sides, especially over the issue of Spanish fishermen operating in alleged Gibraltar territorial waters. Both have signed, and are bound, by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea , which took place from 1973 through 1982...

 which specifies territorial waters. After the arrest of a Spanish fishing vessel by the Royal Gibraltar Police
Royal Gibraltar Police
The Royal Gibraltar Police is, along with the Gibraltar Customs, the principal civilian law enforcement agency in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. It is the oldest Police force in the Commonwealth of Nations outside the United Kingdom....

 in 1998, the problem largely subsided, although the operation of Odyssey Marine Exploration
Odyssey Marine Exploration
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. is an American company engaged in the salvage of deep-water shipwrecks. Odyssey salvaged the US Civil War era shipwreck of the SS Republic in 2003 and recovered over 50,000 coins and 14,000 artifacts from the site nearly 1,700 feet deep...

in the area is currently being contested in the Florida Court.

External links

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