Barcelona Port key in any Catalonia dispute with Spain

The closure of Barcelona Port during a strike throughout Catalonia on Tuesday was only one aspect of the importance of the port in any civil or military dispute between Catalonia and (the rest of) Spain.

The marches on Tuesday were in part led by union longshoremen from the Port. But the military police (Guardia Civil) deployed to battle the referendum and strike came mainly by sea, arriving and departing from the port. Back on September 21st Spain’s deployment of boatloads of military police to Catalonia in an attempt to prevent its independence referendum hit obstacles when dockers in two ports announced a boycott, while a third denied them mooring. More than 4,000 Guardia Civil were dispatched to Catalonia because the central government in Madrid was unable to rely on the loyalty of the local police, the Mossos d’ Esquadra. The Guardia Civil were accommodated on four cruise ships – two in the port of Barcelona, one in Tarragona and another in Palamos.

Amid rumours that Catalonia could declare independence either at the weekend or next week, and with communication between the Catalan government and Madrid almost down to zero, the role of Barcelona, Tarragona and Palamos ports as an access route for Spanish police and military to the main population areas of Catalonia could lead to the sea as well as the land becoming an area of contention.