Law of the Sea

On the sea and at the beach, it’s the Maritime Police that upholds the law and keeps us safe from harm. Vaughan Willmore takes a look at their work and speaks to the Captain of the Port of Lagos.

The Maritime Police is the police and criminal police body responsible for maintaining law and order on the seas, bathing areas, port areas, and inland waterways. It works under the jurisdiction of the Maritime Authority and is responsible to the Ministry of Defense.

Approximately 500 officers work for this unique organisation, responsible for patrolling nearly 3,000 kilometres of coastline and so very much more. Officers are typically involved in such activities as:

  • Patrolling beaches
  • Visiting ships and vessels
  • Evaluating the dispatch of ships and boats
  • Surveillance and inspection of port areas, such as that in Lagos
  • Arresting anyone who illegally enters Portuguese territory
  • Investigating shipwrecks
  • Intervening to establish order onboard ships and vessels
  • Executing court orders in respect to seizures and foreclosures
  • Carrying out investigations in relation to marine pollution, theft of engines, crimes onboard vessels, and the destruction or capture of protected species of fauna and flora.

Working in collaboration with other police and security forces, officers are also responsible for guaranteeing the security and rights of citizens.

Local resident Mark Shreeve is the proud owner of a wonderful Levant 700 Sport Fishing Boat, and he said of the Maritime Police’s work, “I find the officers to be friendly and professional, and I speak to them frequently when passing their boats. In fact, I’ve just had the 5-year inspection of my boat and I encountered no issues at all, the officers were punctual and professional throughout. You respect them and they respect you.”

The Maritime Police is structured into regional commands of which there are six in the Algarve, with the nearest being in Lagos. The man with overall responsibility is the Captain of the Port of Lagos, Lieutenant Captain Pedro Luis Fernandes da Palma.

The Lieutenant Captain has been in his current role since September 2020 so a relatively short time. However, he is a lifelong man of the sea. In a 24-year career he has served with distinction in the Portuguese Navy and at the port of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, so he understands the land and the seas of the Algarve as well as anyone.

The Lieutenant Captain is not only responsible for the operations of the Maritime Police but also for the whole Maritime Authority operation in this area. When talking of his new role, he describes it to me as being “fascinating, varied, and perfect for him”. Such enthusiasm was wonderful to hear.

I asked the Lieutenant Captain what advice he would offer to local residents? “It is always important to respect the natural environment, including the sea, because if you don’t respect it, it has a habit of letting you know!”

This is good advice and a timely reminder for us to take care so that once the current restrictions are lifted and the weather improves, we can make the best use of the wonderful natural environment available to us here in the Algarve.

Did you know…

In a typical year the Maritime Police will:
Carry out over 100,000 inspections and/or surveillance activities
Inspect 16,000 vessels at sea
Deal with nearly 1,000 criminal cases
Rescue over 2,000 migrants.

+351 282 788 464


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