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Nice Côte d’Azur Airport is bounded on three sides by the sea, which is infested with oligarchs screaming around in powerboats and industrialists on huge yachts, all in close proximity (meanwhile the airport is full of their private jets).

A lot of this and other incessant marine activity takes place within swimming distance of the edge of the airport itself. The airport looks remarkably vulnerable to someone who could in effect simply swim up to the edge of the runway.

How is the security of this apparently porous perimeter, and that at other airports in similar positions, maintained?

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ In the background (top) "La promenade des Anglais' beach, where a terrorist attack occurred in 2016. This is the west side of the runways, seen from river "le Var" (bottom of your image). You can see the fence (see link below). Still from time to time... there is an intrusion in the security perimeter. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ The fence stops between runway ends and does not protect access from the waters: Geoportail aerial view. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 11:06

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Often time there will be a fence installed as is the case at Maho Beach where people line up at the fence to get up and close to takeoff. The fence appears to have what looks like barbed wire on top.

If there is not enough clearance markers in the water may denote an area for boats to stay out of. Such is the case in St Barts. Aside from creating something a prop can snag these provide little security.

Assuming its a controlled airfield there is a good chance the controller in the tower can physically see the coast (with binoculars). If you floated up in any boat of size there is a good change you would simply be seen.

If you are talking about the departure end of the runway, it can also be difficult to just walk up to the back of a spooled up jet.

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    $\begingroup$ You can add video surveillance, intrusion detection systems and patrols (specially in France were the so-called "Plan Vigipirate" and "Sentinelle" are active). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ Often the intrusion detection systems are only installed around the aircraft parking areas to detect anyone attempting to approach and tamper with parked aircraft. The taxiways and runways are left merely to surveillance. Or, they may have ground radar running during non-usage hours that can detect intruders approaching from the sea area, with thermal image cameras that can "see" intruders at night. The technology also exists to tie these together, so the radar can detect the intruder, tell the camera where to look, and notify security while also tracking the intruder. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 14:06
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I don't know the specifics for LFMN (Nice Côte d'Azur), but KBOS in Boston, Massachusetts, a major international airport which is even more surrounded by water than LFMN is and where the runways go right up to the shoreline, uses a set of buoys to demarcate a restricted security zone in the surrounding waters. This zone is patrolled by state, local, and harbor police and the Coast Guard, and anyone who enters without authorization is subject to prosecution:

The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) began installing 29 buoys around the 6.6 mile perimeter of Logan International Airport today. The buoys clearly mark the 250-foot inner airport security zone and will serve as reminder [sic] to boaters to steer clear of the airfield. The security zone was established by the legislature at the request of the Authority in 2002 as part of the Chapter 90 General Laws Section 61 and is one of many security enhancements Massport has implemented at Logan.

[...]

The buoys extend approximately five feet above the water so they are clearly visible from a distance. The buoys are similar to the buoys that mark the main channel of Boston Harbor. Three types of marine buoys of different size will be installed along the 250-foot security zone demarcation line ---- Class III, Class IV and Class IV.

The security perimeter is patrolled by State Police, the Coast Guard, Boston Police, the Environmental Police and the Boston and Winthrop Harbormasters. Only authorized law enforcement and military vessels will be allowed in the inner security area. Boaters who enter the security area for non-emergency purposes will be subject to prosecution and State Police will keep a database of offenders. ["Massport Installs Buoys Around Logan Security Zone; Multi-Agency Enforcement Underway" (Massport press release); my emphasis.]

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Fences don't prevent intrusions, guards do. A fence without guards won't resist scaling too long. Not even a high wall with barbed wire on top will. The fence mainly serves as a clear demarcation of the restricted area, and as a delay for those attempting to intrude, giving the guards time to drive out to meet the intruders.

So in this case the perimeter fence ends some distance on the shore. It ends so as to not allow just walking around its end. Anybody swimming or riding a boat to point beyond that will be seen for long enough by a guard (in this day through security cameras) and someone (either airport security, police or coast guard) will be there to arrest them—or to help them in case they landed or swam there because they had emergency on the sea, which is a good reason to not have a fence there.

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Fences, cameras, and guards. That is often enough to keep trespassers or stow-aways out.

That doesn't mean there is no risk. I still worry about what terrorists could do to a congested Friday evening line at JFK with speedboats and some RPGs. That's low hanging fruit, so there must be a plan to mitigate that risk.

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    $\begingroup$ How does one "fence" a bay? Could you show an example of an airport, such as Boston's Logan, which "fences" the marine perimeter? $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 11:55

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