Protecting coast from modern day smugglers

Operation Kraken exercise in Whitby Harbour
Picture by Kathryn Bulmer

Operation Kraken exercise in Whitby Harbour w142006c Picture by Kathryn Bulmer

Legends of smugglers may have helped make Robin Hood’s Bay famous once upon a time, but a week of action by Whitby police has emphasised that smuggling continues to pose problems to this day.

A week of activities has sought to raise awareness of Project Kraken, a North Yorkshire Police scheme to help protect the Whitby coastline.

Whitby Police Inspector Andy Colbourne said that although tales of smuggling may feature heavily in a history of the Yorkshire coastline, the police force has to be aware of modern day threats.

“It’s not just about policing land, but also policing the sea,” said Insp Colbourne, adding few people realise the force’s juristicion actually extends 12 miles out to sea. “That’s why we need to protect our coastlines.”

Operation Kraken is a maritime version of Neighbourhood Watch schemes, whereby harbour users or anyone beside the coast can alert the police if they spot suspicious activity at sea. This may be an unfamiliar boat acting suspiciously or produce being brought ashore without being declared.

He added: “That’s why we have to be vigilant as there are quiet coves around here and because we can not be everywhere to monitor it, we rely on the public to point out suspicious boats.”

Project Kraken is a multi-agency operation and a large-scale exercise held in Whitby in 2012 showed how agencies would respond to a major incident involving the smuggling of cash and weapons.

During this week officers from local Safer Neighbourhood Teams and partner agencies have been in Whitby, where they were engaging with boat owners and operators, local people who live and work on the coast and visitors to the area, to promote Project Kraken and encourage people to report any suspicious activity to the police.

Officers will also be distributing leaflets and posters to marinas, harbours, coastal towns and villages and along the route of the Cleveland Way.

Safer Neighbourhood Commander Superintendent Glyn Payne said: “Local people act as the eyes and ears of the police and provide us with valuable information. They know their own communities and know what looks out of place. This could be unusual vessels, people or cargo, or activity in secluded and hidden areas of the coast.”

Agencies involved in the scheme include th eRNLI, Whitby Harbour Master and the Royal Navy.

Coastal crime: What to look for:

Boats with names or identification numbers painted out

People or packages unloaded in unusual locations

Boats moving late at night or early in the morning in suspicious circumstances

Boats carrying no navigation lights or signalling to people on the shore

Boats which may be overloaded or appear to be handled by people who do not appear adequately prepared to handle the vessel

Suspicious requests to buy large amounts of fuel or uniforms

People taking pictures of high value boats or items

People who ask questions about harbour security procedures




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