CHANGES to Essex Police’s marine unit come into force from today.

Five of the nine officers based in Burnham will transfer to Special Branch, responsible for anti-terrorism and protecting high-profile visitors.

Initially they will still be based in Burnham.

An Essex police spokesman said: “Marine officers will be moved under the control of the force’s Special Branch and will initially remain at their base in Burnham.

“The force, however, will be looking at whether there is a more appropriate location for them as the use of Essex waterways expands with development along the Thames corridor.”

She said officers will be focussing on organised crime on the county’s waterways under the new management structure.

The force is cutting back the marine unit as part of efforts to save £78million a year by 2016.

The marine unit patrols about 360 miles of coastline.

Nigel Harmer, Maldon District Council’s river bailiff, said he hopes to work more closely with Brightlingsea Town Council and Tendring Council to make up for the short fall in river enforcement.