During the upcoming summer season, only two police boats will regularly patrol the 1500 km coastal stretch between Risør and Egersund on the southern tip of Norway. “It is disturbing that activity decreases when we have a higher volume of traffic and speedboats,” Petter Nipestad of Norwegian Sea Rescue in Agder told newspaper Aftenposten.
Last season saw three regular patrols, in addition to the two vessels that respond to emergency situations. This year, the police boat based in Grimstad will be out of service, and the two boats docked in Arendal and Kristiansand will patrol for a total of eight weeks. The boats docked in Mandal and Risør will only respond if sufficient crew is available.
While each county used to receive earmarked funds for sea patrol, since 2003, individual police districts have been responsible for allocating funds appropriately themselves.
Police officials explain the decrease as a budget constraint. “Last year we had excessive spending that must be curtailed. The budget must be balanced. In that, boating services can not be excluded,” Kjell Hegstad, deputy police chief in Agder, told Aftenposten.
Of the 33 fatal boating accidents that occured last season, nine took place in the Agder district. Trond Even Ramstad, 25, navigates the stretch between Kristiansand and Arendal up to 30 or 40 times a season. He rarely notices a police presence and has never been stopped in a control. Ramstad told Aftenposten that he regularly sees irresponsible behavior on the water and says, “the risk of getting caught is minimal.”
Not only the southern district will be affected by the decrease. According to police chief Sveinung Stangeland of the Norwegian Police Directorate, the total number of boats that patrol Norwegian coastlines has now been reduced from 57 to 50. This information comes shortly after Harbour police in Oslo announce a crack-down on alcohol consumption for boat skippers. In addition, Stangeland points out that checks of new mandatory boating licenses will also require additional manpower. Districts will be expected to control the same volume of boats as last season.
Ove Austenå of Agder police district believes that sea services are at absolute minimum capacity at this point.”We will not close our eyes to anything we come across, but we know there is much more we should be cracking down on, such as drink driving and speeding.”
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