Wave of terror: Armed sea marshals could patrol aboard English Channel ferries

© Damien Meyer
Armed sea marshals could soon patrol aboard ferries crossing the English Channel between France and Britain as authorities anticipate further terrorist attacks.

No plan is yet in place for the introduction of armed marshals, but Brittany Ferries is said to be considering the move after conducting a security exercise in the Channel.

The exercise came in response to growing demand for greater security in France after recent terrorist attacks in Nice and Normandy forced authorities to raise the national security alert to its highest level.

French security services are one step closer to introducing sea marshals to patrol routes between Plymouth and France.

The scheme could mirror the use of Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) it the US, which have been around since 1962, but became more prominent after the 9/11 attacks.

While FAMs are rarely seen on planes due the high volume of flights in the US, sea marshals could have a greater presence on ferries between mainland Europe and the UK.

A recent security exercise saw the deployment of French military personnel by helicopter on to a ferry halfway through the crossing between Plymouth and France.

Three armed French sea marshals wearing full military kit boarded the ship at about 5:30pm, roughly three hours before its scheduled arrival in France.

Announcements in English and French informed up to 800 passengers they were taking part in a security exercise.

Access to outside decks was not allowed at the time of the helicopter’s arrival. The security crew traveled with passengers to France, where they left the ship on foot,” a spokesman for Brittany Ferries said.

Security exercises like today’s on board Mont St. Michel give Brittany Ferries an opportunity to practice its incident response in partnership with other agencies.

Safety and security are our highest priority and we operate according to robust procedures set out in the ISPS [International Shipping and Port Security] Code, an international framework endorsed by the International Maritime Organization [IMO].

French authorities have sought to beef up security in light of recent terrorist attacks and are keen to be seen taking a proactive stance on counter-terrorism.

French President Francois Hollande announced last week his government would set up a National Guard to improve security.

Hollande said in an official statement that initial parliamentary talks on the formation of the force would take place in September, “so that this force can be created as fast as possible to protect the French.”