'Does not support UK Borders Agency's proposal to extend programme to recreational yachtsman'
The RYA has commented further on its position with regard to e-borders, the government initiative aimed at tightening border security. In its latestCruising Newsnewsletter, the RYA states that it ‘does not support the [UK Borders] Agency’s proposal to extend the application of the e-Borders programme to recreational yachtsmen’ and that the ‘Government does not seem to have given any real thought to the practicalities of applying the scheme to recreational boating’. It concludes that ‘without our engagement, the Agency might, through ignorance of the recreational boating sector, implement a completely inappropriate scheme’.
Here is the full statement:
‘I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.’
Sea Fever, John Masefield
It doesn’t matter what kind of boating you’re into, the essence of Masefield’s poem still resonates to this day. The lines encapsulate the great freedom that we all associate with the sea. The second verse is less inspiring though.
‘But first I must inform the relevant authorities of my movements,
As part of a new Government initiative to combat terrorism.’
Alright, Masefield never wrote that and if he had, I doubt he would have been made Poet Laureate. Anyway, the matter alluded to in this rather roundabout manner is e-Borders.
e-Borders: even the name is kind of irritating. It’s a Government plan aimed at tightening border security. For us recreational boaters that could mean informing the authorities of where you are planning to cruise to.
The programme is already being implemented in airports and commercial ports, but Government aim to deal with recreational boaters by 2014 at the latest.
Naturally this is an issue which has been concerning many boaters for some time now, and there have been dark mutterings about the manner in which the RYA is dealing with the issue.
Blood on our hands?
Some of you have voiced the opinion that we should oppose the e-Borders programme outright and walk away. RYA Legal Manager Gus Lewis gives his thoughts on this:
‘Introducing an electronic borders system was part of the Labour Party’s election manifesto when it was voted back into power in 2005. This provides the current Administration with a powerful mandate for introducing the scheme.
‘The primary target of the programme, however, is commercial airline and ferry traffic where passengers are already familiar with existing control lines.
“The Government does not seem to have given any real thought to the practicalities of applying the scheme to recreational boating or even whether the scheme would actually achieve the intended security objectives.
‘However, although we do not support the application of the e-Borders programme to recreational boats, we cannot afford simply to ignore it and hope that it will go away.
‘We have a line of communication with the UK Borders Agency, who are implementing the programme, and we need to maintain that in order to discover what is going on and have the ability to influence it. It would be irresponsible of us simply to walk away and shout from the side-lines.’
The RYA has spent the last three years talking to the Agency in order to get a clear idea of what they are proposing to do. Frankly, it still isn’t clear. So far the Agency has been preoccupied with implementing the programme in the commercial airline and ferry sectors.
Let’s be clear, the RYA does not support the Agency’s proposal to extend the application of the e-Borders programme to recreational yachtsmen and we will continue to challenge the Agency over its proposals.
In addition, we consider that any sea border security programme should accordingly be intelligence-led rather than involving un-targeted monitoring of all cross-border movement.
On the basis of the information we currently have we believe that the key concerns relate to the following:
1. Whether as a matter of principle the UK Government should seek to secure the UK sea border and,
2. Whether the Government’s proposals for securing that border are reasonable, proportionate to the risk and likely to be effective.
Gus explains why: ‘We believe that few of you would object to the principle that the Government should seek to secure the UK sea border against terrorist and organised criminal activity.
‘Nevertheless, we do have serious concerns over the mechanism that the Government appears to intend to adopt in an effort to secure the UK sea border and we know that you share our concerns.
‘We believe that trying to bring in tight controls on recreational boaters would be counter-productive, imposing undue burdens and restrictions on you as law-abiding citizens while delivering minimal security benefits.’
Then there is also the issue of security of any data gathered. Let’s face it, Government doesn’t have an amazing track record on this matter, civil servants, laptops, trains… you get the picture.
So these are our basic concerns, and we hope that they reflect your own. It’s also important that we keep some sense of perspective. After all, it was only in 1993 that the old system of clearing in and out of the UK by notifying customs was in place, indeed, if you’re coming into the UK from the Channel Islands, you’ll still (in theory) have to do it anyway.
So, if you’re wondering why the RYA is trying to work with the Agency on an issue we don’t agree with, the answer is simple: without our engagement, the Agency might, through ignorance of the recreational boating sector, implement a completely inappropriate scheme.
It might create a bit of a stir if we chained ourselves to the railings outside Downing Street, but ultimately it achieves very little. If we simply stormed off over this one, we wouldn’t be serving the best interests of our members or boating as a whole.
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