Marshals Talks Continue After Portsmouth Ferry Exercise

It's understood talks are continuing on having armed French sea marshals guarding cross-Channel ferries - after an exercise on a Portsmouth to Caen ferry.

It is believed the plan involves placing marshals on French-flagged vessels departing from ports in France.

Discussions are likely to cover the questions of how the measures would work, and what powers the guards would have, when ferries cross into UK territorial waters.

The development follows a spate of terrorist attacks in Europe, including the deadly assaults in Paris and Nice. Last month there were long delays on the approach to Dover in Kent after extra French security checks were put in place.

In an exercise on Monday, armed personnel arrived on board a ferry travelling from Portsmouth to Caen.

Half-way through the crossing, around three hours before the ship's scheduled arrival in France, three French sea marshals wearing full military kit landed on the ship by helicopter.

Announcements in English and French alerted up to 800 passengers that they were in the middle of a security exercise. The marshals patrolled the ship and carried out other security measures.

A Home Office spokesman said: 

``We work extremely closely with our French counterparts on matters related to security and counter-terrorism.

``We keep security arrangements, including those related to maritime security, under constant review.''

David Balston, of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said: ``Following the tragic recent events in France, security at all transport hubs has understandably been increased and passengers may therefore note an increased visibility of French security personnel.

``Safety and security are of course the highest priority for ferry operators and robust procedures as set out in the ISPS (International Shipping and Port Security) Code, an international framework endorsed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), are followed.

``The UK Chamber of Shipping and ferry companies are in contact with the Home Office and other agencies to ensure the safety of both passengers and freight.

``Security levels are continually reviewed and there is a constant dialogue between ferry companies and the relevant authorities, both in the UK and in France, to ensure the best possible security for passengers.''

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