Cutters will focus on yachts which ignore scheme

The controversial e-Borders scheme in which yachtsmen faced heavy fines and even imprisonment for failing to provide ‘crew data’ is now likely to be run on a voluntary basis, the Home Office told Yachting Monthly today.

Yachtsmen who offered their personal details to the UK Border Agency before a voyage are likely to be left alone, the spokeswoman said. Those who do not will naturally be of more interest to the five high-speed cutters which will patrol the country’s coastline.

The shock news follows a Home Affairs Select Committee report of its investigation into the Government’s £1.2 billion programme. The report concluded that ‘the e-Borders programme is likely to be illegal under the EU Treaty’.

A spokeswomen for the UK Border Agency said that e-Borders would still be implemented and in any case was still at the planning stage. ‘It is not illegal, but we still have to decide how it will work. If it is implemented on a voluntary basis then those yachtsmen who give us the information will be known about and therefore we will have little reason to approach them at sea. We are still working with yachtsmen and their representative bodies to work out the best way of implementing the scheme.

In a special report in the February issue of Yachting Monthly we interviewed the UK Border Agency chief, Brodie Clark, about his plans to bring the yachting fraternity into the scheme. This was before the Home Affairs Select Committee report and at that stage it was expected – by the UKBA – that e-Border compliance would be mandatory.