THE marine police force is suffering a staff shortage of about 200 officers despite a recent restructuring of manpower levels, renewal of the fleet and the introduction of new technology. The chief staff officer (administration and support), Mr John Pettengell, said the 2,465-strong force was 200 officers below optimum staffing levels, which have been revised to take account of the force's investment in new equipment. ''It's like any shortage; obviously it's felt at the ground level in that we would basically not be able to put out the total complement of launches,'' he said. ''Like most organisations, probably, we're never running at full capacity but certainly it's not desperate. ''We maintain the frontline as best we can. I suppose one would have to say any shortages in resources must have knock-on effect but, of course, certain units like the small boat units are maintained at 100 per cent. ''Certainly, units on the frontline, for example smuggling, are maintained at higher levels than perhaps other less high-profile operational posts.'' In the harbour, changes in manning levels and shifts have resulted in only four of the division's seven small launches being used to patrol along with two larger vessels. But Mr Pettengell said it was due to more effective use of manpower and resources and not attributable to staff shortages. The crews of smaller launches were slightly increased to enable the boats to operate 24 hours a day without changing shifts and Mr Pettengell said the changes had not resulted in any decrease in coverage by the patrols. The divisional commander of the harbour division, Mr Laurence Knox, said that when the new vessels were brought into action the crew from the old vessels had been directly transferred and the actual crew levels required were now being revised. ''We're restructuring the workforce in accordance with what we feel we actually need. The size of the force won't be reduced overall,'' he said. ''I'd always like more men, but we have got to be sensible about it. We have adequate staffing levels.'' Mr Pettengell also said the force's overall staff shortfall had been exacerbated by the requirement in 1990 to increase its provision of officers to the Police Tactical Unit from two platoons to four platoons, representing an extra 80 men. The marine police have been reviewing the crew levels on launches in an on-going process since 1989 and crew levels have been reduced as new launches with more advanced technology and equipment have come on line. Mr Pettengell said those levels had been ''tested and tried'' over the past few years and had been accepted recently as the new crewing standard. Mr Pettengell said a review was under way of the entire force to identify the staffing levels required in all sections of the service, which was expected to be completed in the first half of this year. He said the marine police could be forced to revise their estimate of being 200 officers short on completion of the review and any moves to recruit extra officers would wait for the review's conclusions. Compared with staffing levels in years prior to the introduction of new launches and equipment, Mr Pettengell said the shortage would be about 400, but it was not a valid comparison. The marine police took possession of the first of six new command launches in September as part of a 10-year fleet replacement programme, and restructured its senior command to better battle smugglers and improve its response in emergencies.