Ferry firm seeks curbs on cross-Channel swims

A ferry company has called for better regulation of cross-Channel swimmers because the endurance sport is growing so quickly.

DFDS, which runs a service from Dover to Dunkirk, said the rise in the number of those crossing the Channel was raising safety concerns.The company wants the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to take over running the swims in the world's busiest shipping lane from two organisations, the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CS&PF) and the Channel Swimming Association.

French coastguards said they would like to see the activity banned. But the CS&PF said the activity was already well-regulated and safe, with no incidents in 140 years, and that "safety comes first, second and third".

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It is thought about 266 swimmers crossed the Channel from late June to early October this year, a large rise on previous years. The rise follows publicity when comedian David Walliams completed the challenge. The French stopped attempts starting from their coast 17 years ago but allow British swimmers of the 21 miles separating the countries to land.

DFDS passenger director Chris Newey said: "We do not want to pour cold water on what can be a fundraising activity. However, our first and foremost priority is the health and safety and welfare of those at sea.

"We are concerned these crossings are unregulated and growing at an expedient rate. We would like to see it regulated by the MCA." Mr Newey said he did not want to suggest the two organisations that run the swims are doing anything wrong but he that there was no authority to limit and place restrictions on who can cross the Channel. "We are concerned and we need to have some form of regulatory law," he added.

Honorary secretary of the CS&PF Michael Oram said: "Channel swimming is being regulated and for 140 years there have been no incidents. Our safety record is exemplary."

Mr Oram explained that the Coastguard was informed of the swims and that the boats which escort swimmers have trackers which can be seen by all commercial vessels.