Alleged security flaws on a cruise liner berthed in Malta shown on French TV were nothing more than “sensational journalism”, according to Valletta Cruise Port.

The report, broadcast on France TV2 last Wednesday, followed the cruise trip of a journalist who posed as a tourist. The journalist boarded the cruise liner from Messina with the next stop being Malta.

In Valletta, the journalist bought a plastic toy gun (a Nerf brand that shoots foam darts) and placed it in his backpack. The journalist was filmed passing through the security check on the ship as his bag goes through the X-ray scanner. The journalist argued security procedures on cruise ships were lax since the shape of the gun did not raise any suspicion.

However, according to Stephen Xuereb, chief executive at Valletta Cruise Port, no security breaches were observed.

“I saw the footage and the gun was a plastic model, which is why no security alert was raised,” Mr Xuereb said.

He said the journalist’s backpack was scanned on board the ship as is standard procedure for passengers in transit. All security procedures were observed, he added.

“I’d say the report was tantamount to sensational journalism… there was nothing in the footage that should have raised the alarm,” Mr Xuereb said.

All security procedures were observed

He explained that passengers who would have boarded the ship in another port are allowed through the terminal gates on presentation of the boarding pass. In these cases it is the cruise ship’s responsibility to conduct security checks on passengers.

Mr Xuereb said the footage confirmed the French journalist had his bag screened on board the ship in line with procedures dictated by the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code of the International Maritime Organisation.

Meanwhile, for passengers boarding a cruise liner from Malta, security and screening procedures similar to those of the airport apply. “Passengers starting a cruise in Malta will have to go through passport control and have all their bags screened at the terminal. The TV footage also showed this happening at Messina from where the journalist started his cruise,” Mr Xuereb said.

The 10-minute news feature focused on the possibility of terrorist attacks on cruise liners. It said none of the cruise liner companies with which the journalist made contact had answered questions about security procedures.

This prompted him to go on a cruise trip posing as a tourist. The only two ports featured in the footage were Messina and Valletta.

However, the cruise trip taken by the journalist would have passed through five other Mediterranean ports after Malta, including the French city of Marseille, none of which were featured in the report.

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