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Protecting our coastlines

In North Yorkshire we have some 40 miles of coastline which encompasses Staithes, Rood Hood’s Bay, Whitby, Ravenscar, Scarborough, Filey and Humanby.  There are numerous beaches and marinas on the coast as well as a network of navigable waterways giving access to the sea, such as the Rivers Ouse and Ure,as well as Ripon and Selby canals.

Project Kraken, an initiative involving the police and other agencies, aimed at raising public awareness of suspicious behaviour and vulnerability around the coastline.

Criminals sometimes seek to make use of ports and waterways to bring illegal goods and even people into the country.  In particular, there is a major shipping lane off the coast of North Yorkshire that could make our coast more susceptible to “coopering”- the name for transferring packages or people from a large vessel out at sea to a small one that then comes in to port.  For reasons like these, North Yorkshire Police Ports Unit is  actively contributing to Project Kraken, a national initiative that involves the police, the Border Force,  maritime/waterways communities and members of the public.   Through Project Kraken the various agencies work together to provide a hostile environment to terrorism and serious and organised crime.  We also encourage the public to get involved by being our eyes and ears, by reporting suspicious activity to the police.

In 2018, we are extending Project Kraken in North Yorkshire to include raising public awareness of vulnerability, and people who may be seeking to self-harm or commit suicide along the North Yorkshire coastline.  As part of this effort Scarborough Borough Council, the Public Health Team at North Yorkshire County Council and the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire have worked with Project Kraken to create new permanent signage for installation along the North Yorkshire coast.  Forty-three signs have been put up to remind the public to look out for suspicious activity – but also to be alert to vulnerable people who may have come to the coast in order to self-harm or even with suicidal thoughts.  The signage includes the numbers to call in an emergency or to contact the police, the number for the Samaritans, and also a location number to help people to inform emergency services of their exact location.

Testing our readiness with live exercises

The live exercise at Whitby Harbour in June 2018, with officers searching aboard a “suspect” vessel

Protecting our shoreline can’t be done by one agency alone, so as well as carrying out police work behind the scenes, our teams take part in “table top” exercises to test how we would link with other organisations to respond in the event of a live incident.

In June 2018 we carried out a live exercise at Whitby Harbour involving a wide range of agencies using a coopering scenario.  The exercise aimed to test how the police, Border Force, Coastguard, Harbour Master, RNLI and North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority could all work together to bring the “suspect” vessel to harbour, carry out an onboard search, retrieve a package thrown overboard and washed ashore, and detain a person attempting to evade capture by jumping from the ship.

Exercises like these help the police to build contacts with other agencies and examine how response and coordination works in practice in the “live” situation.  This type of practice could save valuable time if a real incident were to occur.

How you can help us

We encourage members of the public and the maritime community to report any suspicious or criminal activity involving vessels, cargoes and/or people within ports, marinas and waterways.  If you do see something suspicious, do not take direct action yourself or reveal your suspicions.  We are also asking you to be aware of people in distress, or whose behaviour is risky or agitated.  If you see either of these things, please contact the police immediately as below:

  • If it is an emergency, always call 999
  • If it not an emergency call the police on 101, select option 1 and quote Project Kraken.  You can do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • During normal office hours you can call the Ports Unit direct on 01609 643 584 or email them on projectkraken@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk 
  • If you want to make a report but you don’t want the police to know your identity, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

What to look for

Signs to spot at a port or on the coastline include:

  • Anyone showing an unusual interest in port security
  • Bags left unattended
  • Anyone appearing nervous, particularly around security screening points
  • Public or passengers who appear to be entering “staff only” or “no entry” signed areas in a port, unescorted
  • Anyone who looks like they may be trying to conceal something they are carrying on their person
  • Boats with names or identification numbers painted out, altered or erased
  • People or packages landed or disembarked from boats in unusual locations and transferred into waiting vehicles. Why are they suspicious? Note times, locations, descriptions of vessels, persons, including boat names, sail numbers, hull colours or other distinctive markings. If vehicles are seen note make, registration, colour and nationality
  • Boats moving late at night or early in the morning in suspicious circumstances, showing little or no navigational lighting or signalling to persons or vehicles ashore
  • Boats which may be overloaded, appear low in the water, contain people who do not appear to be able to handle the vessel or are inadequately dressed for the prevailing weather conditions
  • Boats containing people who appear to be engaged in unusual boat handling techniques such as recovering swimmers or divers from the water
  • Rigid inflatable boats moving at unusual times or seen in unusual locations and fitted with extra fuel tanks
  • Suspicious requests to buy or store large amounts of fuel, satellite navigational equipment, gas bottles, chemicals, uniforms or badges
  • Suspicious or unfamiliar people seen in marinas or coastal areas carrying tools, paying attention to or taking photographs of vessels with high value items such as engines and electronic navigational equipment
  • Suspicious people who ask questions about security procedures or who are observed filming/taking photographs/making notes or drawing diagrams of: military/police/security facilities, vulnerable public areas such as bridges, tourist attractions, shopping, restaurant or passenger processing, embarkation/disembarkation routes at cruise ship, ferry terminals or docking facilities
  • People who abandon a vehicle onboard a ferry and walk ashore or who leave a vehicle in an unusual position in areas of high volume public or passenger access
  • Suspicious vessels observed entering maritime restricted areas or seen in close proximity to large cargo or passenger vessels whilst underway or at anchor
  • People seeking unusual instruction on the water such as diving, hiring powerboats, inflatable RHIBS or yachts. Who are they and where are they from? Obtain as much information as possible.
  • A crew appearing nervous or showing a lack of knowledge of maritime customs
  • Attempts to signal vessels offshore or guide them to an unusual location
  • Anyone who looks to be avoiding security staff or police

Spotting vulnerability:

Sadly, some people have taken their own life on the North Yorkshire Coast.  You could help us to safeguard vulnerable people by spotting the following:

  • People who are on their own, particularly if they are in isolated or dangerous locations
  • People who are showing visible signs of distress
  • People whose behaviour seems risky or agitated

Project Kraken: spread the word

If you run a business near the coast, you can take part in Project Kraken by sharing our posters on your noticeboard for colleagues and guests to see.  Download the A4 poster below.

Project Kraken A4 poster[pdf]