Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover, has suggested that a new ‘Sea Marshal force’ should be created to protect British ferry passengers.
Sea Marshal is a term to describe armed law enforcement officers who board, sweep, search, protect, escort, and maintain control of vessels to prevent hijacking or acts of terrorism.
In the United States, a Sea Marshal (more recently renamed “Boarding Officer”) is a federal law enforcement officer who conducts fully armed boardings of maritime vessels for purposes of ensuring the security and safety of the United States as well as the boarded ship, its cargo, and crew.
In a report submitted to the Home Office, Mr Elphicke called for a new patrol force to be established to tackle the issue.
This comes as the Home Affairs Select Committee claim the Border Force has a “worryingly low” number of ships, with the chairman of the committee calling for Royal Navy support.
Keith Vaz, committee chairman, said:
“Despite maritime security being critical to an island nation, Border Force is operating worryingly low numbers of vessels to protect our borders. Royal Navy vessels must be used in our sea war against the traffickers.”
The UK’s Border Force has been responsible for frontline policing of the borders since 2008 and has a fleet of five vessels. However, with one ship currently patrolling in the Mediterranean and another in dock for maintenance there are only three ships available for duty in UK waters.
The Select Committee report described the UK Border Force as being “clearly under-resourced”.
An additional 8 ships have been ordered to bolster the current fleet, but these are not expected to fully enter service until 2017 at the earliest.
The Telegraph have also reported that the French Government is in talks with the UK about introducing armed “sea marshals” on passenger ferries crossing the Channel.
Former Head of the Royal Navy, Lord West of Spithead, claimed that outside of major ports, the UK was “highly vulnerable”.
Source: UK Border Force
When asked to comment on the allegations in the report, a Home Office spokeswoman said:
“We continue to work tirelessly to maintain the security of our border, intercepting attempts to enter the UK illegally and targeting the callous gangs that profit from people smuggling.”
The report suggested deploying Royal Navy vessels to the Channel as an interim measure to deter people traffickers.