The introduction of sea marshals on French cross-Channel vessels has come a step closer as armed personnel took part in an on-board security exercise.
Brittany Ferries carried out the exercise on the Mont St Michel ferry, travelling from Portsmouth to Caen, as part of moves to make the highly trained military personnel part of the security network.
Announcements in English and French alerted up to 800 passengers that they were in the middle of a security exercise.
Half-way through the crossing, at about 5.30pm, around three hours before the ship’s scheduled arrival in France, three armed French sea marshals wearing full military kit landed on the ship by helicopter.
The marshals, who are effectively part of the French military, patrolled the ship and carried out other security measures.
The exercise was part of a potential ramping up of security in light of recent terror attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe, amid fears there may be more to come.
With the nation on its highest level of security alert, French authorities are keen to be seen to be doing something positive, particularly on French-flagged vessels, to tackle potential security threats.
Public demands in France for increased security have accelerated rapidly in the last few weeks.
A Brittany Ferries spokesman said: ‘Access to outside decks was not allowed at the time of the helicopter’s arrival. The security crew travelled with passengers to France, where they left the ship on foot.
‘Security exercises like today’s on board Mont St Michel give Brittany Ferries an opportunity to practise 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 Organisation (IMO).
‘We very much appreciate passengers’ support during this exercise and thank them for travelling with Brittany Ferries.’