The Home Affairs Select Committee claim the Border Force has a “worryingly low” number of ships to patrol 7,000 miles of shoreline.

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.

Ruthless Targeting

“Terrorists do not see borders as barriers to their barbarism.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live the chairman of the committee, Labour MP Keith Vaz, said:

“The government has done the right thing in ordering more vessels but this should have been done much earlier and criminal gangs are not going to wait until order books have been fulfilled.

“They are making huge amounts of money and they are the ones we are going to be targeting – we need to ruthlessly deal with them.”

Former Head of the Royal Navy, Lord West of Spithead, claimed that outside of major ports, the UK was “highly vulnerable”.

CountryCoastlineNumber of Vessels
UK (Border Force)7,723mi3
Italy (Guardia di Finanza)4,722mi600
Turkey (Coast Guard Command)4,473mi107
Spain (Guardia Civil)3,085mi147
Greece (Hellenic Coast Guard)8,497mi240
Croatia (Croatian Coast Guard)3,625mi9
Netherlands (Nederlandse Kustwacht)280mi16

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.


  1. Yes it is small,in the eu no boarders,eu citizens walk in ,well that was there idea,before the mass migration in to the eu one country to blame Germany.
    We were to be one country,have one defence force,one budget.
    Thank god it’s us the 17.4 million of us who are making our short coming a issue

  2. The table isn’t really useful. For starters it says 3 ships when there are 5.

    However, it is comparing against countries with large migrant issues, against the UK with a very small one. The netherlands is probably the closest comparision on that chart.

    Let’s see how we compare with say France.

    Clearly they are under equipped, but what exactly is there role, which i think is basically a policing one and so you have to look at how many crimes they can stop and i think if the money better spent else where or not.

  3. According to wiki (yes I know) these Damen patrol vessels are less than £5m a pop.

    Really no excuse for having so few.

  4. It was reported a few days ago that New Zealand has two or more OPVs for sale anyone else seeing a simple solution?

    Could we not use fishing trawlers, old lifeboats or Police boats? Or better yet go to a British manufacturer who can produce 50+ Rhibs in quick time as a stop gap? There must be ships that have been built but not sold for what ever reason that could be used? Oil rig support vessels or offshore wind farm support vessels?

  5. 10-15 RN Patrol boats need to be built for coastal protection duties for UK! And another 15 to split between Falklands, Gibraltar (med) and the middle East! And UK Border force also need at least 10 new vessels! Not enough but enough to make a big difference!

    • Why build more – we have a dozen P2000s dotted around the UK as URNU training ships. Two are currently in Cyprus and armed. Why not give these a proper role to justify their current budget? Aside from this the win farm market can chuck out £1m GBP 24m Ali catamarans why not use this example and beef them up for an extra £1m GBP? Surely contractors can’t justify £20m GBP for patrol vessels at 20m in length (this is what our P2000s apparently cost!

  6. problem we have and always had is governments past and present care more about foreign aid and playing the big i am on the world stage and forgetting or doing away with the important stuff…this was proved with the falklands conflict had the argintina waited a few more months we would never have had a conflict as the royal navy was going to be decimated and there for we would not have had any ships to send…..and this is just proof with border control cutting back on destoyer no,s which was 12 then 8 we 6 and they only work so long as we keep out of warm waters,now we are facing a similar problem upgrading our ageing frigates with the type 26 being reduced and a type 31 to try and make up for short comings

  7. I wonder if it is reasonable to count all the UK’s coastline. I honestly doubt if anyone is going to try to enter the UK via the west coast, or the north coast of Scotland.

  8. With only 5 cutters we’re almost starting from nothing so could we look at more cost-effective solutions than buying and having to crew a load of extra ships? How about more use of drones to do the actual maritime surveillance and some smaller and faster vessels to go out and intercept/search/etc any targets of interest. Something like ScanEagle has 24 hour endurance, is easily launched & recovered without any runway facilities and can carry day/night cameras and some Australian company has done some neat stuff for it that automatically recognises and tags likely vessels in a search area. Maybe even do a joint buy with RN since they just had their funding pulled for them and perhaps combining a buy plus maintenance might save costs. $3.2m for a system of 4 drones plus ground station is a lot cheaper than £5m per cutter plus the 12 crew to man each one. Presumably other drone options are available, I just used ScanEagle as an example.

  9. Why is one in the med? Shouldnt they only be operation in british waters. Also if the RN get involved they have plenty of ships capable of doing the task.

  10. Seems to me that we should be building a fleet of 300 safeboats mk6 and 600 combat boats CB90. This could underpin small military boat building indefinitely whilst providing proven platforms for the RM (CB90), inshore patrol and minesweeping platforms (mark6 with atlas).

    These are great platforms, are inexpensive and would build a joint border / asymmetric threat capability, especially if kitted out properly.

    A CB90 is circa £2m and the safe boat is circa £4m. These cost should come down significantly if we build in volume and I believe we have capacity in Portsmouth as that facility has recently been closed.

    From a shipbuilding strategy point of view this would mean small boats could be built in Portsmouth, submarines in barrow and warfighting ships in Scotland and/or Liverpool.

    From a navy point of view a fleet of small ships that can be used to swarm and deliver remote capability platforms such as atlas as well as the ability to deliver elite and special forces would make this a no brainier to me.

  11. Just a thought but can’t we use our p2000 fleet of inshore patrol vessels (blazer etc.)for this. From memory I think there’s about 20 of them used for training purposes time to roll them out I think

  12. We’re just about to decommission two river class patrol vessels.. why not transfer them over to border force?.. we should look to merge HM Customs, HM Border Force and coastal/fisheries protection for the navy.. if we did this we would boost the number of ships, create a service with greater retention of service personnel who love their job but now have families and want to stay closer to home etc.

  13. It looks like the Border Force are down at least one boat following the recent storms – wrecked at Holyhead

  14. Or what about merging hm coast guard and the border force?after all the coast guard must come across a lot of illegal activity then have to call out the RN, police or border Force.i also understand that the border for are unarmed!only in England!!


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