Our keynote film for the 2017 Maritime Media Awards was ‘Seaguard’. It looked at the (non) preparations by government to deal with the likelihood of increasing illegal migration cross-Channel. The film (go https://www.maritimefilmsuk.tv/films/seaguard/ ) begins with a fictionalization of a mass assault on our shores by people traffickers using large RIBS – brilliantly realized by artist Caroline Misselbrook and MFUK’s video editor and producer Andy Jones. (Traffickers plan mass assaults like that to swamp coastal authorities and enable other smuggling too.) The film went on to show how few sea-going cutters were actually available to police our coasts (3, then. Italy, for example has 600, Greece 240 – even Croatia has 9 vessels available.) Now, what we imagined is happening – see headlines like the one above – and looks set to increase. Are we prepared? Don’t bet on it.
UK Border Force Maritime’s present Channel migrant challenges have met with some action, as our film ‘Seaguard’ showed (go https://www.maritimefilmsuk.tv/films/seaguard/ ) That action then consisted of the acquisition of three new vessels (see picture of one, ‘Alert’.) These large RIBS are primarily meant for close onshore work, going up estuaries, into marinas and harbours etc. Necessary and useful up to that point – but with that high top hamper and the poor seaway behaviour of RIBS (they’re on the sea, not in it), going any distance out in one wouldn’t be fun. Despite the fact that this showed some action, it was only with the greatest difficulty that we were able, at the 11th hour, to persuade the Home Office (who run UKBF) to let us see one, and speak to the head of UKBF Maritime. Don’t ask me why.
Our Maritime Media Awards film ‘Seaguard’ (https://www.maritimefilmsuk.tv/films/seaguard/ ) benefited from the hospitality of the Royal Navy, as we joined Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) HMS ‘Severn’ (picture) to see her on task (see Maritime Films UK blogs passim.) But the voyage was tinged with regret, as this was to be ‘Severn’s last patrol prior to decommissioning, after which she was to be put in reserve and/or sold, because the new ‘Batch 2’ OPV’s were on the way. In ‘Seaguard’ we asked: “… why even think about getting rid of a ship that may soon be needed more than ever?” Well, it seems MoD went into rethink mode, as almost a year to the day after our film’s release it was announced that the three Batch 1 OPV’s are to be reprieved. Of course, that decision must flow from our film! (Lol)
The men from the Met Office faced no easy task when they came on board the Sevenstones lightship from THV Galatea off the Isles of Scilly that day. Their kit was housed right up next to the light itself (picture) – which can be seen for 15 nautical miles (a nautical mile is just over 2000 yards.) But being high up in the light made one Met Office lad’s task especially burdensome as he’s prone to seasickness, and the higher you go in a ship, the more pronounced the rolling and pitching – even on a nice day like the one we had. But he stuck to it and got the job done with his colleague. Bravo! He certainly looked mighty relieved on the quayside at St Ives where we were all dropped off at the end of our voyage.
The Sevenstones lightship that we boarded while filming for Trinity House guards the approaches to the Isles of Scilly. Indeed nearby low- level rocks growl out of the sea, even on a calm, sunny day like the one we enjoyed on task. They form part of the dangerous seas all round the islands, that have been the graveyard of many a ship, famously four from a fleet commanded by Sir Cloudesley Shovell (picture), comprehensively wrecked in 1707 after going badly off course in appalling weather. The ‘Scilly Naval Disaster’ saw the death of up to 2,000 Royal Navy personnel, including Sir Cloudesley and his two stepsons – a tragic end to a brilliant naval career. The multitude of fanged rocks around the Isles still lie in wait for mariners – but the odds are far better now, with Trinity House on watch…
When told that I’d be going aboard the Sevenstones lightship to film the maintenance team from THV (“Trinity House Vessel”) ‘Galatea’ there was a certain amount of knowing looks and wry shaking of heads. Further inquiry revealed that I was very likely in for an experience only to be willingly endured by the most determined birdwatcher – you know, the type who’ll hang over a cliff to glimpse a tern. This because most seabirds, on seeing a lightship, seem to think “Aha! Time for a little visit!” and make themselves comfortable on the ship. All over it, in fact. I was warned the stench and slippiness would be abominable. But we all got lucky. Sevenstones was clean enough to satisfy the most exacting First Officer, alow and aloft. They even left the solar panels untarnished (picture.) Not gullty, in fact! (Ouch.)
Rob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.
Subscribe to email updates