Friday, 10 June 2011

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey- Can we Learn from it?

Two recent events have reminded me of a suggestion that came to my attention about 25 years. The first is a recent visit that I made to New York where I saw numerous signs advertising the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The second is the recent fuel tank fire at North Mole. They may seem unrelated and disparate events but the reason why I made the connection is because of the subject of inter-state cooperation. 

One subject on which everyone seems agreed is that, whether in Gibraltar or elsewhere, the resources available in any individual locality will not be sufficient to deal with all emergencies. There will be emergencies of a size that will require assistance from services from other localities. In a large country, this is usually not a problem, the services of a nearby town or county can be relied upon to help. In Gibraltar such assistance is only available from a foreign state, Spain. A foreign state that has a sovereignty claim on Gibraltar.

There is no doubt that Spain will and has helped, as evidenced recently. The question is not that it will or will not help. The question is, what agreed fixed arrangements are there in place to deal with these situations? It seems, from the little that I have heard, that such arrangements as exist are informal and ad hoc. They seem to depend on personal connections and relationships established between individuals within each of the emergency services. The problem with such arrangements is not that help is not forthcoming but the political repercussions of having to rely on informal arrangements. This is especially so in light of Spain's sovereignty claim. Spain will always have a political propagandist angle that it will exploit, perhaps not at a national level but certainly at a local level. These incidents and the lack of formalised arrangements gives Spain ammunition that it may not have were formal cooperation agreements to exist.

The Trilateral Talks Communique of the 21st July 2009 included six areas for agreement on cooperation. One of these was:

"We have sought to ensure a high level of environmental protection in Gibraltar and the whole region, especially the Campo de Gibraltar, by proposing co-operation in areas such as pollution from maritime activity and traffic, bunkering operations, industrial emissions and water discharges, waste disposal and land reclamations, among others. This co-operation is intended to take the form of liaisons, establishment of contact points and urgent means of communication, rehearsed co- operation in co-ordinated incident response, and other means... We are committed to reaching agreements in these areas as soon as possible preferably by the end of the year , and in any event by next year's ministerial round."

Undoubtedly this intention is sufficiently widely worded to include cooperation agreements on mutual assistance to be provided by the emergency services of Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar in the event of need in an emergency. Formal arrangements reduce, if not eliminate, the ability to use such events as propaganda against Gibraltar. However despite the expression of desire to reach agreement, none have been reached as yet.

However, why limit cooperation in this manner? Why not go one step further and cooperate to enhance the overall exploitation of the port and airport resources of the Bay of Gibraltar for the economic benefit of the whole area? That is what New York and New Jersey agreed to do in 1921 when by inter-state agreement they created the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  I quote a brief description from and provide a link to an online encyclopedia: 

"Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, self-sustaining public corporation established in 1921 by the states of New York and New Jersey to administer the activities of the New York–New Jersey port area, which has a waterfront of c.900 mi (1,450 km) lying in both states. In 1917 the governors of New York and New Jersey appointed a bistate commission to study the problem of coordinating port and harbor development for the two states as a whole in an attempt to resolve the many disputes between the states concerning such matters as boundaries, marine police jurisdiction, and freight rates. Out of this group's recommendations grew the idea for the authority, and in 1921 a compact was signed (the Port Compact) that defined a single Port District and provided for its administration by a Port Authority that was to coordinate terminal, transportation, and other facilities of commerce. Originally called the Port of New York Authority, the name was changed in 1972 to reflect the joint administration of the port.

Read more: 
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey —"

I do not suggest an identical copy of what was created in New York and New Jersey. I believe that it is an example from which we could learn. There are similarities and there are differences. The obvious difference is that both New York and New Jersey are part of the USA. The similarity is that they are each separate and distinct states within a federation, with separate and distinct governments and administrative competencies and that by a cooperation agreement issues of dispute between them were resolved. I am sure that the resources available on each side of the frontier between Gibraltar and Spain could be used to enhance the overall offering of the Bay of Gibraltar. This becomes increasingly important, now, when faced with increased competition from the new Tangier port across the Straits of Gibraltar.

I believe it may be a controversial suggestion but one worthy of thought and debate. It may well be that it is a non-starter. If that is the case, let that be so, after consideration and debate, not because no one has thought of it or because it is rejected out of hand without due analysis and proper thought and consideration. Innovative ways forward need to be considered if Gibraltar is to move on and improve itself especially in today's world. Expansion of the economy and opportunities on both sides of the frontier  will be enhanced if available resources are shared across the border and future investment is made wisely thus avoiding duplication.


  1. Robert,what you propose is only controversial if the only stance we are willing to take is one in which every agreement that is made with Spain comes at a price.

    This should not be the case when dealing with serious humanitarian or environmental issues. Political differences have historically been put aside when dealing with these dratic siuations (Fedra, Oil Tank) but only on an ad hoc basis. This surely allows for the risk of such incidents to escalate before resourses can be maximised. It must be better to know what Spain can send in support and when rather than having to place a request for help during an incident. This should of course be reciprocated, we would expect to send assets in support of a major incident in La Linea.

    The difficulty for me is that when it comes down to discussing the technical aspects of such cooperation, both sides are too politically sensitve and those experts who you would expect to draft such documents of cooperation are actualy replaced by civil servants who no little on the subject and really only have an eye on not upsetting their political masters.The discussion cannot flourish.

    I say let the experts do the drafting, allow the politicians to review and highlight anything unacceptable to them away from the conference table, and then gather again to finalise. Give these experts the confidence to use there expertise and we'll find that they are aware of what will cause political problems and steer away, producing agreements of purely technical nature.

    The unwilliingness to allow this to happen, and we see this again in a slightly different light with a career civil servant overseeing the oil tank incient rather than allowing an independent expert to conduct the investigation, is entirely the fault of politicians on both sides.

    How can we learn lessons if we are not willing to admit to mistakes.

  2. RV,

    In principle it seems a logical and natural course of action to take. However, and as you so correctly point out, there is the one obvious difference. There is also the matter of political will and with elections just round the corner it would seem to me that, to even suggest this at this moment in time would certainly be political suicide to even broach the subject. Having said that it would seem that the Trilateral forum paved the way for this kind assistance in that “widely worded statement” that you’ve quoted.

    However meetings didn’t materialise and nothing was agreed, it would seem. So, no surprises there!

    I agree with you that a similar formula to the one you have highlighted should be arrived at to safeguard situations of this ilk and I would have thought that the Trilateral forum provided the vehicle to achieve it. Yet the reality is that this forum is proving to be too cumbersome and slow for progress to be seen.

    Is Gibraltar to blame?

    We must remember that Spanish politicians across the border also want to be re-elected and when it comes to their own elections Gibraltar and sovereignty is always the catalyst which brings them all together. Hence our topsy-turvy relations with the “alcaldes” which always results in unnecessary cross border political (and even personal) bickering.

    Returning to the main issue that you suggest regarding the need to pool resources to ensure the safety in the nearby ports, Spain can always turn round and smugly insist that they have all the necessary equipment and resources to tackle all kinds of port or maritime problems. They could also even turn around and simply say "tururu" (llanito expression) to your kind of political proposal! What then?

    Spain will always seek an advantage and agreeing to “formal political” pacts and agreements is almost tantamount to an admission of our political existence. I am sure that they would be more comfortable, as is always the case with them, to be seen as the experts or the helping hand. The hand of friendship, that we always reject and the same hand that, when the rest of the world is not looking, keeps slapping us at any conceivable moment.

    If a “Bay of Gibraltar Port and Maritime Agreement” (bad start because they would want it referred to as Bay of Algeciras) is ever to be reached it would need to be one that provided palpable economic success. Success that would hopefully relegate sovereignty issues to the very back of the queue. Yet somehow I very much doubt that this would happen.

    RV, as always an interesting suggestion but one fraught with political conundrums that could have us bureaucratically pinging away endlessly until the next disaster (hopefully not).

  3. ... and I thought this was going to be a cotroversial subject! Perhaps it is too close to the truth for anyone to express a view? That alone says much!

  4. i don't trust them, before now or in the future. If we give Spain an inch they will take the mile, and everything else they can drag with it. They would always have the upper-hand and we would always have to swallow it whether we liked it or not.

    I think we need to learn to stand on our own two feet, rely less on the frontier and concentrate more on things like cruise-liners to augment our economy. In his interview the other day, Caruana was inventing plans for the Port as he spoke, plans he should have thought of years ago, and instead of pampering to the Spanish with the airport, he should have spent part of that money in investing properly in becoming the favoured port of the south-western Mediterranean for the the cruise-liner industry.

    Quite honestly, those getting very, very rich from bunkering and other port-related businesses should be putting up adequate funds to deal with any possible problems caused by their activities. It's not fair that the tax-payer has to step in now to fix this mess, and even less fair, that for them to continue getting even richer, we have to enter into an agreement with a country whose only real intention is to regain sovereignty of Gibraltar!

  5. Maybe its the heat.

    Silly season soon upon us or possible now that there's no fire (just an oil slick), its back to putting our heads in the sand!

  6. Gosh...anon 20.12

    I almost got the same feeling hearing the CM... "In his interview the other day, Caruana was inventing plans for the Port as he spoke..."

    I could be wrong, but I got the impresion he was trying to gloss over the whole episode.

  7. What gets me is how many experts we have in Gibraltar

  8. RV,

    You have spoken before on the need to appoint locals (professionals)in responsible positions. I find it inappropriate that the Civil Servant appointed to head the inquiry is none other Mr.Gil (according to the Chronicle)is being indirectly accused of impartiality even before the inquiry takes off.

    Unlike the other "top" administrative Civil Servant who is unprofessional and unqualified (lets not mention names), Mr Gil is a fully qualified engineer (according to my sources) and although not an Emergency management Expert, he is the best qualified professional to head this inquiry given the rank he holds.

    The argument as regards the independence of the inquiry is another matter altogether. Questioning Mr.Gil's credentials is a tad out of order, IMHO.

  9. Disciple X

    I am not consciously aware that anyone has questioned his credentials as a fully qualified engineer ...

  10. But the point is does Mr Gil have any experience of conducting investigations and can he be seen to be impartial when he forms a part of C3 the involvement and acts of which must form part of the investigation.

  11. how can someone be appointed to investigate his boss, his department and the work carried out in the departments of his colleagues?

    I don't question Mr Gil's integrity, on the contrary, poco hay tan formal como el, but what if the results he produces end up being contested in court by an affected party, his independence will become an issue.

    If we have a lesson to learn here, lets hold up our hands and learn it because we are dealing with people's lives. Why must Government proceed in a way that makes it look like its trying to hide or cover something up!

  12. Harto de Shalura:Slightly off topic but are the regular rounds of self congratulation among public officials not becoming offensive? The commissioner of Police congratulates the emergency services and vice versa. Now Mr. Wink highlights the RGP's excellent co-operation with the FSC after yesterday's raids on alleged illegal money changers and Mr. Kilick blows kisses back. Wink, Killick etc need to realise that as taxpayers who pay their lerge salaries we EXPECT & DEMAND that their organisations co-operate efficietly and would only be interested if they were not co-opearting in which case we would expect their salaries to be docked and them disciplined or dismissed. Dejarse ya de estupideses por favor!

  13. I have to agree with Anon 23:02 it really is getting nauseating to listen and read to the commissioner of police and others of their appreciation society who continue in this self-praise of themselves every time there is an arrest which carries some press coverage or self-made press coverage! although no one is doubting that illegal moneychanging is a criminal offence, but are these the communities priorities for the police. Shouldn't the police being do more about stopping young people abusing drugs and 14 years being sent to prison for selling illegal drugs, these are the real problems in society. I see Mr. Wink remains quite on these Issues!

  14. Agree entirely with anon at 11.26. Note the huge effort to crack down on the small time shopkeepers in Irish Town who(although it is illegal) only save themselves a few bob by beating the crap exchange rates offered by banks by changing Euros they receive back into £s and in the process help workers paid in £s change their money into Euros at a better rate. Whenever I go in those shops, all you see is wage packets coming out and small amounts being changed. Yet all this crap about them being vehicles for money laundering. Yeah right, the Crime (Money Laundering & Proceeds) Act has, since 2007 imposed obligations on lawyers, but the FSC dont regulate them and the lawyers are not subject to any supervision or regulation whatsoever to ensure they comply. Makes you wonder where the real money laundering takes place!

  15. guys, guys, calm down, come on, give the police some credit. Think of the message we are sending the underworld, watch how they shake in their shoes.
    This is a Force to be reckoned with and if you don't believe me, just wait till Tuesday or Wednesday, the Police Authority will tell you so!

  16. Robert, I have a legal question:

    what is the difference between exchanging euros for pounds WITHOUT a purchase and buying something marked in pounds with Euros and your change given back in pounds, or euros for that matter?

    Would that not constitute an offence too?

    Anna Conda

  17. Policing cannot be an easy job at the best of times and there is little doubt that we have a lot of committed people in the service. That said, are the police really listening to the people, recent public surveys carried out by the police authority do not put the police in a good light! The police I think need to do some re-connecting with the public, particularly the younger generation. The police also have to make a special effort to completely distance themselves from the government, this commissioner in particular has been criticised more than once for leaning to much on those convent place pillars!
    What do others think about Bringing over a UK officer to take over the RGP when this commissioner retires, will a fresh face and a completely new out look on policing benefit Gibraltar and the police in the long run!

  18. Anon@13:04: I think you are agreeing with Anon:11:26 and not 23:02: Please clarify.

  19. Mr Almeida - I find that avoiding an issue by using deflecting tactics to undermine the poster is just not fair-play, instead of being be so patronisingly pedantic, perhaps you'd care to comment on what anon@13:04 had to say.

  20. Re: Civil Servant appointment.

    My take on this is that he will be heading the investigation not necessarily carrying out himself.

    I am sure we will all agree that if we bring umpteen specialist we will get different recommendations.

    The fact that the CEO tech Services will be there is to provide some balanced and technical information of our local area that may be required. The experts coming in are, Capita Symonds.

    A quick browse of their website does show that they do seem to experienced:

    To those who suggest that maybe JB should have been hired for this job. However the one problem that I have with that is that he has already nailed his colours to his mast and obviously his impartiallity (not his professionalism) could be questioned!!

    Expecting some rebuffs!!

  21. In Gibraltar everything is political, at least with every government we have had up to now. The fire safety of Gibraltar should be governed by written rules and regulations were there is no room for political intervention. These rules should set out the minimum requirements which the Bunkering Companies must comply to fund and maintain.

    Why don't those tanks at the Port and the fuel tanks at the Generating Stations have foam sprinkler installations similar to the ones that the Waterport Distiller has or had. The list is long and costly, the City Fire Bridgade should be the backup.

    Maybe one should consider were are the fire barriers on the upper rock or do we need another enquiry to tell us we need them.

  22. Denis the menace, sorry it was just an accident :)

  23. re: the comment that the Civil Servant may have to give evidence in court...

    Surely isn't that what we want? That responsibilities fall on Top Civil Servants in order that they become more accountable!

    In fact it even makes more sense because it would mean that he would have to give an honest assessment and certainly would not want to risk his reputation nor credibility by kowtowing to his "master".

    I say, give these guys the responsibilty...maybe we can improve the reputation of the Service. In some other cases we could even get rid of others!

  24. disciple X, I'm curious, where did you get all this information from?

  25. disciple x

    by all means, give the civil service responsibility, but not to lead an investigation on themselves.
    Should the investigation decide somebody, or some company in particular is to blame, and they are held responsible and maybe even accountable, and they have to resort to insurance to pay out claims, the insurance company is going to fight it tooth and nail, and the first thing they are going to do is contest the independence of the civil servant's findings.

    We must not only be impartial, we must be SEEN to be impartial too.

  26. Anon 19.13

    Information from??? from the written word as is available to all and of course my interpretation of it...

    Why are you so mystified? .... Hmmmm...surely you are not suggesting???....

    Thankfully I am no expert but LW provides me a platform to put my thoughts across...problem with that?

  27. Anon 19.19

    Maybe I 've got this wrong but isn't there an expert company involved that will cover or investigate this. Are we now also questioning this company?

    Maybe the CivServ is there also to provide support and assistance in relation to information of the local area. The company can't just land in Gib and hey presto they'll know everything...lets be practical!

    Anyway if indeed there is a case to answer for then, and it is considered that the Government has acted negligently as regards the implementation of proper regulations etc...then it would seem logical that they pay up, period. The lesson will then be learnt.

    I am still not convinced that the presence of a Civ Serv (and I am once again keeping an open mind on this), will influence the contents of the inquiry or in any way prejudice the final report.

  28. Anon@18:41

    I was just having a bit of fun.

  29. disciple x, not mystified, just wanted to read it for myself, that's all.

  30. Tyrone Duarte:

    Robert, I trust that you are well. We jsut went out to Soho to dinner and slammed two bottles of Veuve between the two of us, and the brandy is now staring at me - so you will forgive me my typos and any excesses.

    On the subject of interstate co-operation, why do we have to assume that it has to be with Spain - apart from the proximity factor? How about we look at our long standing friends in Morocco, and in the process stick two fingers up at Spain, which is totally intent on controlling the Straits to the detriment of Morocco's and our (British)interests?

    We have to get it into our collective political heads - there will never, ever be an agreement with Spain. Spain is hell bent (for sound geopolitical reasons) to control the Canaries - Gibraltar - Baleraics axis. This means that it is in direct competition with Morocco for oil and gas resources of the Western Sahara and anything else that may be found in the Mediterranean. This explains the Spanish daliance with the Western Sahara - and fishing rights of course. Reliance on Algerian gas, and the assistance to the Saharawis in Tindouf - note that it sits on a promising gas field.

    The best we can hope for is for the Balkanisation of Spain into its separate national entities. A united Castillian state will always be against our interests.

    On the specific issue of the investigation of the incident at the port I would like to see Mr David Dumas appointed to assist, if he is willing to accept. He has a sterling reputation for integrity and would give some back bone to the efforts of the Chief Technical Officer.

    Who are Capita? Are they the "Crapita" Private Eye refers to? Couldn't we have got some guys from Shell or Anglo-Iranian?

    By the way, I have heard that it is like Christamas in terms of procurement at the moment in the City Fire Brigade. And, as the police and city congratulate themselves for surviving, how about a pat on the back to the lads from the Defence Fire Service - or is Mr Caruana so churlish over issues with the MoD that they will be airbrushed out of the story?

    Finally, can somebody please tell me who Nick Cruz is?

    And before any of the factions shoot down my geopolitical comments and claim that they are conspiracy theories I would recommend that they go and find out what I have been doing since 2002.

  31. Nick Cruz is the late Charlie Cruz's son.
    His mum is Eileen, nee Andlaw.
    He is a lawyer. Like many lawyers he makes many pronouncements and has a lot of opinions, as he views himself to be an authority on everything. Well meaning as no doubt he is, in many instances he is out of his depth as he cannot be an expert on everything, though bless his cotton socks, he does his best.
    At one time he was very close to the CM. He is not so close nowadsys. He flipped parties but has somehow run out of political steam as by his own admission, he is not standing at the next elections.

  32. I read what Anon @00.35 says but Nick Cruz certainly comes across better than the PDP leader. Keith Azopardi affects a weird gravitas that he seems to have got from Peter Caruana whose deputy he was. Nick is a public school boy and Keith a boys comprehensive chap but there seems to be a role reversal here. Keith needs to be less bumptious or to give way to Nick.