A deep rummager's tale transcript

This transcript accompanies the 'A deep rummager's tale' short film from the Seized! gallery.

Specialist search of commercial shipping.

Deep rummage is a form of ship search where you intend to search areas which are judged as confined spaces. Such examples would be tanks on board a ship, a cofferdam - these sort of tanks aren't small they often can be multi-storied and can contain thousands of litres of fluid, diesel oil, water. You're looking for class A drugs, cigarettes, firearms, or anything else which is illegal or prohibited to bring into the UK.

The ships are selected for searching by an intelligence-driven method, and the vessels which present the highest risk are the ones selected for examination.

Our remit is national, we can search anywhere from the top of Scotland down to Cornwall. We have in the past worked with Immigration, the Police, we've also worked with the new agency SOCA.

We also have in the past conducted drills with the Fire Service. Due to the specialised nature of where we work and the specialised nature of deep rummage, we have to be trained to rescue ourselves from any situation we might find ourselves in.

The specialist equipment we use is available to the trained teams, and there are only four teams in the country. The system is similar to what the Fire Service use but it differs in one big aspect - we don't carry our air supply on our backs. We are connected by an airline to a breathing apparatus trailer which is normally located on the quayside next to the vessel which we're searching. This means we can be a bit more flexible in the type of spaces we can get into because we're often operating in confined spaces - we couldn't do that with a big cylinder on our backs. The only thing we do carry with us is an emergency cylinder which is strapped to our legs, which gives us about 10-15 minutes of air depending on how hard we are breathing. If someone without breathing apparatus entered a tank where there was an oxygen deficiency, they'd be unconscious within 30 seconds and potentially dead within two minutes.

Liverpool is a centre of excellence when it comes to vessel rummage training, primarily because it has access to very good training aid, but also because of the experience of the training team which has been built up over many years.

Our main training aid is the merchant vessel Altea, which is actually moored in Liverpool. This vessel was seized in 1989 carrying over 17 tonnes of cannabis, and has been subsequently adapted to give us real-life training scenarios.

One seizure that comes to mind was dealing with a passenger on board a commercial vessel.

A commercial vessel can be anything from approximately 30 metres long to anything up to 350 metres, and they're building bigger ships as we speak.

It involves what I consider to be the bread and butter of rummage, which is speaking to ship's crew and to the passengers who are on board. A passenger's cabin was searched and upon lifting up his bunk, 102 kilos of cocaine was found. This had a street value of over £20 million.

I do this job because I feel like I'm protecting society. More personal to me, there's also working as a close-knit member of a team. Because of the work we do and the dangers that we sometimes face and indeed the training we have undertaken, you do get a very close bond with your team because your life could be in their hands.