09 July 2008
International gangs attempting to smuggle drugs and people into Britain are now coming up against a new force - the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
With a £2 billion budget and 25,000 staff, UKBA's priority is to prevent drugs and other illegal goods from making it on to Britain's streets and to stop foreign nationals from getting to the United Kingdom without permission.
Out on patrol in the Solent today, Borders and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne saw at first hand the role 'Cutters' play in preventing smuggling on sea routes.
When intelligence is received that an attempt is being made to bring an illicit cargo to Britain, these fast patrol boats can be sent out quickly to stop other vessels in their tracks.
Liam Byrne said:
"Organised criminals stand to make huge amounts of money from smuggling people and illegal goods into Britain. That's why we created a strong new force at the border to stop them.
"UKBA, just like these Cutters, has been formed to respond quickly to new threats to Britain's security to stay one step ahead of lawbreakers and protect the country 24 hours a day.
"It is also backed up by world-leading technology that tracks the people setting out on journeys to UK ports and airports so that wanted criminals can be arrested before they cross our border.
"The fingerprint visas we've rolled out across the globe are also stopping foreign nationals lying about their identities to get to the UK."
Smugglers are often well organised and funded, especially international gangs who spend months, even years, planning their attempts.
Sea routes are still popular. With so many boats and travellers arriving into UK ports, smugglers think they can slip through unnoticed.
Highly trained UKBA officers know what to look for and use up-to-date technology, such as x-ray scanners, fibre optic cameras and night vision aids.
The fast patrol boats also make it very difficult to smuggle with success. They are powered by large diesel engines and smaller water jets.
The main engines give a top speed of 26 knots to better the high performance of boats sometimes used by smugglers. The smaller water jets allow Cutters to move almost silently at low speeds to stalk slow moving boats, such as yachts.
Smaller high speed boats known as RHIBs (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats) can be launched from the stern of Cutters in support. Officers have a range of powers to stop and board boats suspected to be carrying illegal goods.