West Cornwall MP Andrew George is calling for a review of the county’s coastline security after it was revealed a yacht containing an estimated £20 million worth of cocaine had been heading for Falmouth – the last Border Force post to close.
Mr George is pressing the UK Border Force to carry out the review following last month’s seizure of cocaine from the yacht Windrose, which had been bound for Falmouth when it broke down and had to be towed to the Isles of Scilly.
Mr George said: “I suspect that this seizure was more the product of luck than judgement. I had raised concerns when the previous government cut the numbers of customs officers and facilities around our coast.
“I fear that drug smugglers can just walk in through our ‘front door’!”
In response, a Border Force spokesman said: “Given Cornwall's lengthy coastline and large number of small ports and harbours, a static thin blue line of staff based permanently at a single port is not the most effective way to cover the county.
“Border Force uses mobile teams which allow our officers to go to where the risk is greatest on an intelligence-led basis.
“Passengers and crews arriving at Cornwall’s ports are checked against watchlists before arrival and we also have a fleet of cutters patrolling the Cornish coast.”
He stressed that this arrangement of mobile teams of borders officers was not unique to Cornwall and most of the UK, outside the biggest ports, was covered in this way.
Falmouth Custom House had not been an operational base for several years before its closure last year. Customs and immigration checks were – and continue to be – carried out by mobile teams from Plymouth and elsewhere, he added.