Marina staff act as first defence

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MARINA staff are voluntarily acting as the first line of defence against illegal immigrants, smugglers and terrorists.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) does not have permanent staff at any of the country’s marinas or small harbours – leaving them open to boats sneaking into dock.

But Hartlepool Marina workers are providing a constant barrier by taking details of vessels and keeping in contact with the UKBA.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said the staff should not have to do government work, but added they do an excellent job that residents should have faith in.

Allan Henderson, director of Hartlepool Marina, said the information provided by his staff help officials monitor the shores and highlight any dangers.

And he revealed confidential plans are in place and action is swiftly taken when there are suspicions over crew or cargo.

Mr Henderson said: “We work closely with the UK Border Agency and other agencies on immigration, customs and terrorism. A lot of information is shared.

“There is a set procedure in place concerning foreign vessels when there are any suspicions, but that’s all I can say.

“This is a voluntary role and is not necessarily in place in other marinas, but we believe it is important.”

Mr Henderson said UKBA officials have not been needed at the town’s marina for “quite a long time”.

Captains of any foreign boats coming into Hartlepool are ordered to give details of their vessel, crew and their previous port. The information is then passed to the UKBA.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “It’s not an ideal situation. I would want such places covered by proper officials and Government departments.

“However, that said, Hartlepool Marina staff are excellent at their job and I have no doubt whatsoever that they have the very best interests at heart. I would put my faith in them before someone who has been sent here.”

UKBA bosses say that employing staff at every single UK marina and small harbour, which total more than 400, would not be practical.

A spokesman for the service said: “The UK Border Agency is intelligence-led and we have teams around the country responsible for working with small ports, marinas and airfields.

“Our fleet of cutters operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to disrupt any potential sea-borne criminal threat.

“We also work closely with the National Maritime Information Centre, coastguard, police and other law enforcement agencies to protect the UK coastline and prevent customs and immigration crime.”

Cleveland Police said their officers are seconded to the UKBA and the two services work closely together.