Written Answers. - Howth (Dublin) Drugs Surveillance.

Liam Fitzgerald

Question:

40 Mr. L. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Finance the level of surveillance at Howth Harbour in terms of the number of personnel and man hours served to monitor the movement of sea traffic through the harbour for the purposes of combating illegal drugtrafficking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16142/95]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that six units of the Customs National Drugs Team, CNDT, comprising a total of 15 staff are based in Howth with responsibility for combating drug smuggling along the east coast. These units consist of one maritime unit, two intelligence units, two operational units and one sniffer-dog unit. All the units are mobile and can be deployed rapidly to locations on the east coast, as required. The CNDT units are on duty for a core period of 12 hours a day for six days each week and they operate outside those hours where necessary.

The CNDT carries out monitoring and surveillance of the movement of vessels, particularly vessels arriving from abroad. Continuous monitoring of vessels at Howth itself is not carried out, as this is regarded as unnecessary, but yachts and other vessels have been boarded and searched by Customs from time to time as part of surveillance operations mounted at Howth. The Naval Service can also be called upon, as required.
Because of the vital role played by intelligence in combating drug smuggling, the Customs Service has devoted considerable attention to measures to enhance intelligence gathering. One of these measures is the drugs watch programme under which the assistance of coastal communities and maritime personnel is enlisted by encouraging them to report unusual occurrences in their areas to Customs by freefone or freepost. Information about this programme has been distributed in the Howth area and the local community has responded positively by alerting Customs to suspicious vessel movements.
In the circumstances I am satisfied with the level of surveillance carried out at Howth Harbour to monitor sea traffic there for the purpose of combating the illegal importation of drugs.