Gun smuggling and cash dumped at sea were the theme of a multi-agency exercise coordinated by North Yorkshire Police last week. The exercise formed part of Project Kraken – a national campaign designed to increase vigilance among our coastal and maritime communities to protect the UK from crime and terrorism.
Weapon smuggling tests coastal security
Gun smuggling and cash dumped at sea were the theme of a multi-agency exercise coordinated by North Yorkshire Police last week.
The exercise formed part of Project Kraken – a national campaign designed to increase vigilance among our coastal and maritime communities to protect the UK from crime and terrorism.
The Agencies involved were North Yorkshire, Humberside, Durham, Cleveland and Northumbria Police, Border Force, Whitby Harbour Master, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, HM Coastguard and the North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA).
Several boats were used to provide realism to the exercise including North Eastern IFCA’s North East Guardian 111, Whitby’s offshore lifeboat, Whitby Harbour Master’s Pilot boat, and Humberside Police’s Marine Search Unit provided a Rigid Inflatable Boat with officers from the unit playing the role of the criminals.
Sergeant John Webb of Whitby Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “The exercise was a great success and brought together a number of agencies who have the knowledge, skills and equipment to help us keep our communities safe.
“It has been very beneficial for all of the agencies involved. From testing each other’s roles and responsibilities, to building a great working relationship with colleagues who share the common goal of keeping our communities safe.
“As part of Project Kraken, members of the public are encouraged to report anything they believe is suspicious along the coastline and in our harbours and marinas. This could be unusual vessels, people or cargo, or activity in secluded and hidden areas of the coast. Whatever or wherever it may be, if you suspect it, please report it. We will take all reports seriously and you could help to prevent a serious crime or incident taking place.”
Darren Walton of Border Force, whose officers also took part in the exercise said: “Exercises such as this help to build and maintain contacts, which enables us to work closer, sharing information and experience, thus increasing the security of our borders.”
Scarborough Borough Council’s Harbour Master, Captain Ian Vasey, added: “The exercise proved very successful, ensuring that the port’s security plan was thoroughly tested and proved to be extremely effective.
His comments were echoed by the Coxswain of Whitby Lifeboat, Mike Russell, who said: “It was a good exercise, giving us the opportunity to share information and interact with other agencies.” And, Ian Davies, Offshore Operations Manager for the North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, who added: “It was a well planned operation which brought all agencies together and highlighted the importance of local security.”
If you wish to report anything suspicious, please call North Yorkshire Police on 101, if you prefer, you can give information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or you can call the Anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.
Project Kraken forms part of the Government’s national police maritime crime and counter terrorism initiative.
The exercise centred around the scenario of the importation of illegal arms and a cash exchange at sea:
10am 25 April 2012, North Yorkshire Police received a call from a fishing boat reporting unusual activity at sea, whereby a large vessel was seen passing an object to a smaller boat which had pulled up alongside.
Suspicious activity was also reported when the occupants of a RIB (rigid inflatable boat played by Humberside Police Marine Search Unit) were seen interfering with lobsters pots just off the coast of Whitby. They were not local and their presence in the area raised suspicions among local fisherman who had reported the earlier incident.
Border Force’s cutter (although not involved for the purposes of the exercise) intercepts the suspect boat (played by Whitby Pilot boat) and conducts an onboard search, the boat is then escorted back to the harbour.
IFCA’s North East Guardian 111 locates the suspect RIB near the lobster pots, the RIB leaves the scene heading towards the shore discarding packages as it travels.
These packages then drift towards the shore north of Sandsend.
IFCA launch their own RIB from the North East Guardian 111 and recover the lobster pot and bring it on board. After opening it, they find it contains a waterproof case with £25,000 cash inside.
A person is also spotted going overboard from the suspect RIB and Whitby lifeboat is called to rescue them.
The lifeboat picks up the man from the sea and tows the suspect RIB (which is now unmanned and drifting) into Whitby harbour.
North Yorkshire Police has notified Whitby Harbour Master, who has increased security around the harbour and arranged for a secure area of the quayside to be cordoned off. Berths for the incoming vessels have been allocated in the secure area to allow the suspects and the suspects’ boats to be searched.
Two suspects are escorted off the vessels, including the man overboard who suffered no serious after effects. Both were arrested by Whitby Safer Neighbourhood Team and searched for items.
Specially trained search teams from North Yorkshire Police and the Border Force then conducted full searches of both suspect boats (Pilot boat and RIB) from which they recover three weapons and a package of cash from the Pilot boat and two handguns and a package of cash from the RIB.
While this is happening, HM Coastguard is alerted to the suspect packages drifting towards the shore near Sandsend. A team of Coastguard officers and a North Yorkshire Police Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) are deployed to cliffs north of Sandsend. The CSI and a Coastguard abseil down the cliffs to recover the suspect packages which have been washed ashore.
Source: North Yorkshire Police