Spain Hires Cruise Liner to House Police in Rebel Catalonia

Barcelona Braces for Protests Before Referendum Vote

Spain has discreetly hired ferries to be moored in the Port of Barcelona as temporary housing for possibly thousands of police specially deployed to keep order in rebel Catalonia and help suppress an illegal independence referendum.

The country’s interior ministry asked Catalan port authorities to provide a berth for one ship until Oct. 3 -- two days after the planned vote -- saying it was a matter of state, a spokeswoman for the port said by phone Wednesday. The vessel, known as “Rhapsody,” docked in the city about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, she said.

The aim is to amass more than 16,000 riot police and other security officers by the Oct. 1 referendum, El Correo newspaper reported on its website. That would exceed the number of Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, who serve both the Catalan and central governments.

Spain is putting more boots on the ground in the northeastern region as it arrests local officials, raids regional-government offices and takes control of payroll administration in the run-up to the referendum. The ballot initiative, passed by the Catalan Parliament and declared illegal by the country’s highest court, has escalated a years-long stand-off between pro-independence campaigners and Spain’s central administration in Madrid.

As well as the “Rhapsody,” with capacity for 2,448 people, the ministry also hired another vessel to dock in Barcelona with a third headed for the port of Tarragona, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west along the coast, El Confidencial website reported. The “Rhapsody” is operated by the Italian shipping company Grandi Navi Veloci SpA, the port spokeswoman said.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE