Coastal security tops maritime agendaConcerns about UK coastal security are to be raised with Government Ministers following a meeting of an influential Parliamentary maritime group.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Maritime and Ports is to seek assurances from Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill MP about measures to bolster Great Britain’s inshore borders in the fight against such threats as people traffickers, organised crime, illegal fishing, terrorists and drugs smugglers.
It is also to copy the letter to Shipping Minister John Hayes MP.
A centralised command and control structure, multi-agency operations and co-ordinated intelligence gathering were among the issues raised at the meeting at Westminster.
They came after a joint presentation to the Group by international consultancy The Maritime Group (International) Limited (TMG) and resilience management specialists State21 Limited, titled ‘How secure is our coastline?’
Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West of Spithead, said that a centralised capability of command and control to improve inshore security was ‘exactly what was needed and something he has proposed in the past’.
TMG Managing Director Captain Malcolm Parrott and State 21 Business Director Tony Birr outlined the multiple agencies involved in coastal security.
They include the Border Force, the Police and the National Crime Agency as well the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, National Maritime Information Centre, Royal Navy, the Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCA) and the voluntary sector.
Captain Parrott and Mr Birr raised potential solutions for discussion, including a new single Government agency, a single command and control structure, central intelligence gathering and analysis, and a central process for deploying resources.
MP and Lords at the presentation included co-chairmen Lord Greenway and former Shipping Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Lord Wrigglesworth, the Earl of Cork and Orrery, Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke and North Wiltshire MP James Gray.
Nearly 50 people attended the presentation, including senior figures from marine companies and organisations
Jim Fitzpatrick, co-chairman with Lord Greenway, said the presentation was very ‘valuable’ in raising questions about coastal security, co-ordinated activity, command structures and intelligence gathering.
“I suggest the All-Party group writes to the Minister and puts the questions raised by very senior members of the Group.”
The reply will be reported back to the All-Party Group.
The meeting came hot on the heels of concerns from the Independent Reviewer of Terror Legislation, David Anderson QC, about British borders being weakened by poor records kept by ferry firms.
Joint venture partners TMG and State 21’s delegation also included TMG Partner and Director Les Chapman and State 21 Managing Director Richard Rowland.
TMG Managing Director Malcolm Parrott said after the meeting: “The scale of the problem around our coast is becoming enormous.
“Our presentation successfully raised questions about the issue which members of the All-Party Group and attendees carefully considered and proposed ways forward.”
Mr Birr added: “Great Britain has excellent agencies with world class reputations and we hope the meeting was valuable in contributing to the debate about how these can be better utilised to secure our coastal borders more effectively.”
TMG is an international consortium of maritime services companies, marine consultancies and marine management companies with its headquarters in Seattle and regional offices in London and Honolulu.
Founded by former police officers, State 21 is resilience management consultancy delivering training, exercises and debriefing for the maritime sector.
The UK has about 13,900km of coastline. The maritime sector’s direct contribution to the economy is estimated at about £13.8billion.