Last year a report commissioned by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said strengthening security on the Thames was a priority. The river runs right through central London, past the Houses of Parliament, so represents a perfect location for a potential terror attack. On Sunday 19th March Police held their first major anti terror simulation exercise based on a tourist boat hi-jack.
More than 200 police officers and emergency services personnel took part in the exercise in London docklands. Men posing as terrorists stormed a tourist boat and took hostages. Soon after, armed officers unleashed a hail of gunfire and boarded the vessel, overpowering the black-clad shooters. In an effort to make the simulation as life-like as possible, one police volunteer played the role of a body and was unceremoniously dumped over-board.
The exercise was designed to test every aspect of the emergency services’ response to a river-based attack, right from activation to conclusion.
The multi-agency operation was carried out between the Met, the Port of London Authority, London Coastguard, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade.
Police Commander B.J. Harrington said the exercise was not a response to a specific threat, but the truck attacks in Nice and Berlin last year were evidence that terror targets were changing and evolving. He said:
“Most importantly, (this has given) the people who are going to have to do this tricky and difficult and dangerous stuff the opportunity to have confidence that they can do it, and hopefully, above all, give confidence to people who live and work and visit London to say the police, the agencies, blue light agencies and other public service agencies are in a really good position to protect them and keep them safe.”
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the Met’s counter-terrorism chief, said the security services had foiled 13 potential terror attack in the last four years.