A PORT security guard has warned he and his colleagues have had no training to cope with an attack.

The guard at Newhaven Port contacted The Argus to blow the whistle over serious security fears.

He said: “In the current climate of terrorist attacks, there is no adequate training for any of the security personnel.

“No one has any training of what to do if a suspicious device is found on the property and even less knowledge of what to do in the event of an attack.

“I work as a security guard and I have been given no protection from attack or any other way to defend myself. Seeing as we only search 25 per cent of all tourists that go through as either car passengers of foot passengers, the likelihood of an explosive device being taken on to the ferry is high and yet nothing is done to counter this, either by the police or the management.”

The whistleblower, whose identity The Argus knows but has agreed to protect, said he was terrified that criminals or terrorists could exploit the weaknesses in the system.

He raised specific concerns about the likelihood of criminals being able to transport explosives on to ferries – risking the lives of hundreds of passengers and staff. However The Argus has decided not to reveal the exact security weaknesses he has recognised so as not to increase the risks.

The National Crime Agency, Britain’s answer to the FBI, has been warning since 2016 that smaller ports such as Newhaven are vulnerable to terrorist attack.

However the whistleblower said that in recent weeks a group in a car filled with rifles were allowed to continue their journey and handed back their guns after they claimed to be on a hunting holiday.

He added that passengers were regularly allowed to travel with mace or pepper spray, classed as an offensive weapon under UK law.

“I go to work every day because I have to but it’s not very comfortable,” he said.

“We are being told that criminals are trying to escape through Newhaven but we don’t know what to do about it.

“We were told there was a murderer on the run who could be trying to escape through the port, but we were only checking one in four cars.

“Special branch told us about him but we didn’t have the training to do anything about it.

“We are constantly on what they call security level one, only checking 25 per cent of cars. We just don’t have the training we need. I don’t even know what to do if I see a suspicious bag.

“When I first started I was told by my manager I would be trained by the existing security guards. But they can only teach what they have been taught, which is nothing.

“If someone had a car boot full of explosives and we tried to search them no one knows what to do.

“People using the ferries assume we know what we are doing and that we are protecting them, but we can’t.

“There has been no training to say ‘this is what we do in this situation. This is who you call. This is what you do’.

“We’re just told that if someone is carrying a knife we get them to fill in a form and they get it back in France.

“We find pepper spray a lot and quite often we’re told ‘let them take it across’.

“There was a hunting crew who said they forgot to tell us about their guns. We just take the offending items, fill in a form and they get given back to them at the other end.”

The wistleblower said he was employed through a sub-contractor for ferry operator DFDS.

Border Force monitors those coming into the country through the port. The whistleblower states security concerning those boarding ferries leaving Newhaven comes down to four private security guards on each shift.

Newhaven Port Authority security officer Michael Smith said: "Newhaven Port Authority as the Port Security Authority will be investigating in to this matter immediately and this article has already been sent to the persons responsible for the security at Newhaven Ferry Port.

"As Newhaven is a ferry port the security is supervised by Maritime Security & Resilience Division (MSRD).  Transport Security Inspectors from the Department for Transport make announced and unannounced inspections of British ports to ensure that security is conducted at the level set by the contracting government.  MSRD also conduct annual audits to ensure that paperwork, searches are in line with the security regulations and the current security level.

 "Newhaven Port Security Authority came into force following the EC Regulation 725/2004 effectively applies Part A and specified elements of Part B of the International Port and Shipping Code as law across the EU. In the UK further Statutory Instruments, namely SI 2004 No. 1495, The International Ship and Port Facility (Security) Regulations 2005 and SI 2005 No. 1434, The Ship and Port Facility (Security) (Amendment) Regulations 2005 create the legal powers that ensure the EC Regulation has practical effect. Newhaven PSA fully complies with these regulations and any enquiries should be forwarded to the MSRD."

Smaller Ports like Newhaven are vulnerable 

With security beefed up at Dover and Portsmouth and airports now almost inpenetrable, security chiefs have been warning that smaller ports like Newhaven are vulnerable. 

But despite the warnings stretching back as far as April 2016, security staff say their experiences on the ground do not reflect the grave concerns of terrorism experts. 

The National Crime Agency warned it had seen evidence of criminal gangs using Newhaven. 

Tom Dowdall, deputy director of the NCA’s border policing command, said: “We’ve seen evidence on the South Coast at Newhaven.”

An internal NCA assessment also said: “The investigation has confirmed the risk... that general maritime offers crime groups access to the UK in what is generally an unpoliced area.

“There is no generic border control at small marinas around the UK coast.”

The NCA teamed up with Border Force and police forces to launch Project Kraken to urge the public to report anything suspicious they notice at ports and marinas.

Ports across the country were urged to remain vigilant in the wake of the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester last year. 

However, our whistleblower said he and his colleagues had been given no guidance on how.

Previous intelligence reports have revealed potential plots to attach explosives to the side of vessels carrying millions of tonnes of liquid natural gas from the Middle East into UK ports.

The NCA has also highlighted the dangers of criminal gangs supplying guns to terrorists. 

Maritime security levels are set by security specialists at the Department for Transport which keeps maritime security under constant review

However, despite the national security threat level being graded as “severe” our whistleblower said threat levels at Newhaven Port were still at their lowest level – meaning only a quarter of vehicles are searched.

At the highest threat level the state has full security powers and may decide to send in police, intelligence personnel, bomb disposal experts and the Armed Forces.

The Argus has passed the specific concerns raised on to the authorities in the hope of preventing an attack.  

The Government provides port authorities with a 200-page Guide To Good Practice On Port Marine Operations to cover the risks they may face. The guide states there should be a considered assessment of risks to the harbour, its users and the public.

Port authorities can face prosecution for failing to comply with legislation, as well as breaches to the Heath and Safety at Work laws. 
Port security is governed  by the Maritime Security and Resilience Division, which is part of the Department for Transport.

The Department for Transport said the security concerns raised by our whistleblower were a matter for the port authority. 

The security guard we spoke to said he was concerned for his own and other port users’ safety. While his concerns centred on the risks to those leaving Newhaven and on  the ferries, the port has been at the centre of years of concern over a rise in illegal immigrants managing to enter the country. 

Police have previously warned people were being smuggled in almost daily. In April 2016, shortly after the NCA’s warning over the risks at Newhaven, Phil Nicholas, chief inspector of the Sussex Police Roads Policing Unit, said his team was dealing with a steady number of migrants on an almost daily basis and had made hundreds of arrests in the previous few years.

In December it was revealed Border Force plans to recruit a Dad’s Army of volunteers to police the coastline. The project is being trialled on the East Coast but considered for rollout across the country.