‘Doing our best to keep a vigil’ - Coastal patrollers refute claims of weak border security

John Cresswell, operations manager for the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service (FVCPRS)

John Cresswell, operations manager for the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service (FVCPRS) Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Volunteer crews patrolling the Suffolk coast have introduced new procedures to deal with the increased likelihood of encountering people smugglers.

The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service (FVCPRS), has also increased its patrols of key waterways due to a rise in immigration and “other suspicious activities”.

Operations manager John Cresswell made the comments in response to concerns raised last week about Suffolk’s vulnerability to smugglers in the wake of an immigration incident at Woolvestone marina.

Mr Cresswell acknowledged parts of Suffolk’s “very exposed and isolated” coastline had historically been a “smugglers’ soft touch”, however he disputed the suggestion nothing was being done to combat security threats.

While Mr Creswell said initiatives, such as Project Kraken, which encouraged communities to report suspicious behaviour, had “stalled”, he insisted his volunteers, together with Border Force, Coastguard and Coastwatch “are doing our best to keep a vigil”.

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FVCPRS, as one of the UK’s 61 independent, regulated lifeboat organisations has been patrolling the southern Suffolk coast, estuaries and rivers for the past 20 years. Last year, FVCPRS completed up to 5,000 miles of patrols, including 216 of the Harwich approaches, 108 of the Orwell, 96 of the Deben, 15 of the Story and 10 of the Ore.

Its work as a free marine resource for Suffolk Constabulary features on national TV shows.

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Given the organisation’s long-standing work to protect the coastline, Mr Cresswell said it was disappointing not to have received greater recognition from authorities. “Being overlooked yet again makes us believe that we should be called ‘ghost’ rather than coast patrol,” he said. “We may be volunteers ... but we can be out there somewhere day or night as and when required.”

Mr Cresswell said the increase in people smuggling was likely to continue, leading to the introduction of operating procedures and risk assessments to prepare crews for a migrant boat encounter.

The team is also set to launch a new boat, Last Orders, next year, which will feature next generation engines and navigation tools including a radar linked to a thermal night vision camera.

Visit Felixstowe Coast Patrol for more information.

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