Spain has quitely chartered a cruise ship to be positioned at the Port of Barcelona as housing for thousands of riot police and security officers in order to try and suppress rebel Catalans who are seeking an independence referendum.
You can read about the dispute in Spain in a New York Times article As Catalonia Referendum Nears, Tensions Rise in Spain.
According to Bloomberg Politics, Spain hired the the Rhapsody to house a portion of the 16,000 security forces in advance of the October 1st referendum passed by the Catalan Parliament but declared illegal by Spain’s highest court. The riot police are intended to try and control the pro-independence campaigners.
Bloomberg writes that Spain is putting "more boots on the ground" near Barcelona in order to arrest local officials and raids regional-government offices prior to the referendum.
In addition to the Rhapsody which has a capacity of 2,448 people and can accomodate 700 vehicles, Spain is chartering two additional unnaned ferries to house the riot police. Not to be confused with the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas, the Rhapsody is a RoRo ("roll on – roll off) cruise-ferry operated by the Italian shipping company Grandi Navi Veloci SpA.
Chartering cruise ships to provide housing is not particularly uncommon, at least where extra housing is needed following hurricanes or for special events such as the Olympics. But it seems highly unusual for cruise ship or ferry operators to agree to lease their ships as housing for riot police to be used in such a hotly disputed political and probably violent dispute.
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Photo credit: Grandi Navi Veloci
September 22, 2017 Update: A photograph of the Rhapsody (bottom) at the port of Barcelona was posted today on Twitter, via @15MBcn_int.
September 26, 2017 Update: Barcelona stevedores vote not to supply Spanish "police ships."