A terrorist attack on British shipping is now a major threat, a defence expert claimed last night, as a stowaway arrested at a Welsh port exposed serious security failings.
Dr Paul Moorcraft, editor of Defence Review, warned the Government to stop focusing all security attention on airports because Al-Qaeda is 'more likely' to strike through shipping.
This disturbing vulnerability was highlighted yesterday when a Middle Eastern immigrant was able to hide away on a ship unnoticed before being caught at Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, just metres from thousands of gallons of highly-flammable fuel.
Dr Moorcraft fears the UK's current reactive approach to terrorism could mean it will take an actual terrorist attack before we take this naval threat seriously.
He said, 'Al-Qaeda is more likely to strike through shipping. Very few container ships are checked.
'There is understandable concern about our airports but I do not think we are spending enough money on port security or coast guards.
'There is a real threat of a naval attack but we are very reactive in this country until something happens - but shipping is an area in relative neglect.
'We may talk about dirty bombs but my own view is that the next attack, if it comes, will be via shipping.
'I am sure this man was probably some kind of eccentric but it should open our eyes to the lack of security in this area.'
Yesterday Dyfed-Powys Police arrested the immigrant after he boarded coastal tanker Black Rock at Avonmouth and then hid in a lifeboat until the ship docked at Milford Haven's oil port.
On temporary court licence, the man, aged in his 30s, jumped ship and clambered onto the jetty of the Elf refinery. Huge containers of fuel are stored nearby.
Police coaxed the man down from a gantry and questioned him but later released him because he had committed no offence.