The Spanish ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office after the latest incursion into British territorial waters off Gibraltar by a Spanish ship resulted in collision with a Royal Gibraltar Police vessel.
Europe Minister David Lidington said the activities of the Spanish state research ship and its accompanying Guardia Civil vessel had not only been "unlawful" but were also dangerous.
He told ambassador Federico Trillo that the UK Government would take "whatever action we consider necessary" to uphold British sovereignty and protect Gibraltar.
The latest incident is understood to have occurred when the research ship Angeles Alvarino accompanied by a Guardia Civil vessel entered British territorial waters around 7.30pm on Tuesday.
They were immediately shadowed by ships from the Royal Navy's Gibraltar squadron and the Royal Gibraltar Police.
In the course of what was described by Mr Lidington as "dangerous manoeuvring" by the Guardia Civil vessel, there was said to have been a minor collision with a police boat.
Senior British officials in London contacted officials in Madrid about the incident and around 9.30pm the Spanish boats left British territorial waters.
Mr Lidington condemned what he described as a "provocative incursion" by the Spanish.
"Not only were the actions of the survey vessel unlawful, but it was accompanied by a Spanish Guardia Civil vessel whose dangerous manoeuvring presented a significant safety concern on the waters," he said.
"According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the waters around Gibraltar are indisputably British territorial waters, under United Kingdom sovereignty, in which only the United Kingdom has the right to exercise jurisdiction.
"Her Majesty's Government takes a grave view of any attempt by Spain to exert authority or control within British Gibraltar territorial waters and considers such incursions as a violation of our sovereignty.
"I strongly condemn this provocative incursion and urge the Spanish government to ensure that it is not repeated. Her Majesty's Government will continue to take whatever action we consider necessary to uphold British sovereignty and the interests of Gibraltar, its people, its security and economy."
The summoning of Mr Trillo marks the fourth time the Spanish ambassador has been publicly called in to the Foreign Office in relation to Gibraltar since the current government in Madrid took office in December 2011.
The Rock has been a long-running cause of friction between London and Madrid, with Spain maintaining a long-standing challenge to Britain's sovereignty over the territory which it has held since 1713.
Tensions flared again last summer after the Gibraltarians dropped concrete blocks into their waters in order, they said, to create an artificial reef - although the Spanish claimed move was designed to disrupt their fishing boats.
Madrid retaliated by imposing strict border controls at the crossing between Spain and Gibraltar - a move denounced by Britain as politically-motivated - leading to long tailbacks.