RYA demand explanation from UKBA

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has launched a fleet of five cutters patrolling the United Kingdom’s coastline. These fast patrol vessels form part of the recent transfer of some customs responsibilities from HM Revenue & Customs to the UKBA. Previously known as Her Majesty’s Customs Cutters, the vessels will now be called Her Majesty’s Cutters.

However, in response to a number of letters from RYA members who have been victims of ‘stop and search’ raids at sea, the RYA has approached the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration to seek clarification of the statutory powers of the UKBA cutter crews and boarding parties.

“We are receiving an increasing number of such reports from members of the boating public who are worried about the intimidating demeanour of the UKBA cutter crews and boarding parties”, commented Gus Lewis, RYA Legal and Government Affairs Manager.

It is fully acknowledged by the RYA that the UKBA cutter fleet is intended to provide a national surveillance and interception capability to protect the UK from terrorism and criminality, but the RYA is concerned that if the recreational boating public believe they are routinely to be regarded as suspects it may lead to reduced vigilance and increased apathy towards the security services, which would be counterproductive to the aim of enhancing national security, customs and immigration controls.

“We can see no reason why UKBA personnel cannot perform their duties in a way that does not imply that the public is doing or has done something that is against the law”, continued Gus.

It has also come to the attention of the RYA that the UKBA cutter crews and boarding parties appear to be demanding that UK yachtsmen in UK waters provide proof of identity and other information relating to the yacht and their voyage which, as a matter of law, yachtsman are not obliged to carry.

“We have approached the Minister to challenge the authority of these crews to demand such information from yachtsmen, we are now awaiting a response”, concluded Gus.