Report: Government should push ahead with e-Borders for boaters

Chief inspector highlights failings of e-Borders but says leisure boaters should still be included

An independent report has recommended the government push ahead with plans to log every recreational boat movement into and out of the UK under the e-Borders scheme.

John Vine
, chief inspector of borders and immigration, said that despite the scheme’s failings, the Home Office should “introduce a reporting and risk assessment process for General Marine traffic based on the e-Borders system and a process to provide for interception of vessels on a risk basis.”

This is no different from the original e-Borders proposition as outlined a decade ago, despite serious questions being raised over the years as to the unique difficulties in monitoring leisure boat traffic and the legality of the entire scheme.

The chief inspector’s report comes after nearly £500 million has been spent on e-Borders to date, and acknowledges that the scheme is falling far short of data collection targets.

By December 2010, 95% of passenger movements were set to be recorded, but that figure stands at just 65% today. e-Borders also came in for harsh criticism over the deletion of 649,000 records relating to potential drug and tobacco smuggling.

The report does acknowledge that there were “practical considerations” in applying e-Borders to leisure boaters, but fails to detail how these issues may be addressed.

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“We welcome the acknowledgement in this report of the legal and practical issues that the RYA pointed out to the e-Borders team several years ago but it is concerning that the chief inspector did not seek to address these issues when formulating his recommendations,” Gus Lewis, head of legal & government affairs at the RYA, said.

“We maintain our long-held view that the e-Borders reporting methodology is simply not designed to accommodate the unscheduled activities of the recreational boating sector.
“We will continue to oppose the implementation of a regime in which all cross-border voyages to and from other EU states by recreational craft are required to be notified to the UK government in advance of the voyage.”

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