Gibraltar: a history of intrigue and seafaring

Kevin Bossino of Gibraltar Tourist Board discusses the Rock’s remarkable past as a maritime hub

Gibraltar: a history of intrigue and seafaring
Gibraltar retains its historical position as a hub of maritime activity

By Alex Smith |

Known as one of the Pillars of Hercules in ancient times, Gibraltar has experienced a long and varied past as a result of its position at the gateway of the Mediterranean. 

“Gibraltar has had an incredible history with an amazing amount of intrigue,” says Kevin Bossino, CEO of the Gibraltar Tourist Board. “There is a Unesco World Heritage Site, Gorham’s Cave, where evidence of a thriving Neanderthal community has been found. Gibraltar has been occupied by the Moorish and Spanish, and the British have ruled for the past 320 years, enshrining it with a very eventful history.” 

This history has inspired many writers and film-makers in their own works, which bear the traces of the territory’s influence. 

“George R.R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones, was influenced in his vision of Casterly Rock when he read about and later visited Gibraltar, with its many tunnels, chambers, caves, gunports and cannons looking out over land and sea,” says Bossino. “During World War II, meanwhile, British forces carried out Operation Tracer, in which they built an ultra-secret bunker as a contingency against invasion by Axis forces. Due to its secrecy, the operation was organised at the home of Rear Admiral John Henry Godfrey and involved his personal assistant, Ian Fleming, who is believed to have used Godfrey as the basis for the character of M in his James Bond novels.” 

In the present day, Gibraltar retains its historical position as a hub of maritime activity. The University of Gibraltar’s Maritime Academy is responsible for training thousands of crew members that call at the port every year. 

“Through its partnerships with the Gibraltar Port Authority and the Gibraltar Maritime Administration, the Maritime Academy is able to offer training not only to the 20,000 crew that changeover in Gibraltar each year, but also to thousands of commercial vessel and cruise ship crew members,” explains Bossino. “Gibraltar’s maritime infrastructure further enhances the academy’s ability to deliver the highest quality of training.” 

With convenient maritime infrastructure and a range of sights for guests, Bossino sees Gibraltar as a perfect stop for cruise lines sailing in the region. 

“Gibraltar is a unique destination in the Mediterranean, making it a complementary and interesting addition to existing itineraries in the region,” he says. 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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