Hampshire Constabulary's marine unit has seen its future secured – after the RYA South Regional Volunteer Team successfully lobbied MPs and the local Police and Crime Commissioner.
A year-long review, ordered by the county's Police and Crime Commissioner Michael Lane, looked at both the unit’s operational effectiveness and its value for money.
Current staffing levels will be maintained but the unit's two large vessels (a 12-metre catamaran and an 11-metre patrol launch) will be sold.
Two rigid inflatable boats, said to be capable of carrying out all the duties performed by the bigger craft, will be retained and is due to be joined by a third.
The unit's duties include combating crime in marinas as well as targeting drug smugglers and people traffickers.
Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “The marine unit will continue to support neighbourhood policing on the water and carry out intelligence-led patrols to tackle serious and organised crime.
“As well as enhancing our marine unit, we will be saving money that can be spent on other operational priorities.
“This will be achieved by the sale of two large vessels that no longer meet our operational needs as they're more suited to spending extended time at sea.
“We will instead buy a new craft with improved inland capabilities - better able to carry out searches of rivers, lakes and mud to help us locate missing people and evidence from crimes.”
Crucial support welcomed
The announcement has been welcomed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and other organisations.
Andrew Norton, RYA Safety Advisor, said: “Recreational boating in the UK has a long established tradition of self-reliance and individual responsibility. Consequently, we continue to enjoy relative freedom to pursue our boating activities, but this freedom cannot be taken for granted.
“Today, our coastal waters and inland waterways face increasing pressure from competing commercial, environmental and leisure interests.
“In addition, national security, public safety and progressive regulatory initiatives, together with economic pressures, are more significant in today’s political agenda.
“As such, we welcome the announcement that the marine unit will continue to provide crucial support to our marine communities and Hampshire Constabulary's wider policing efforts.”