Tips on maritime security: Creating a real security culture on board yachts

Written by Michelle Williams | With thanks to Graspan Frankton

Last updated: 27/02/2017

Since the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code came into force in 2004, there have been significant developments in the training, information, products and services available to yacht security. Security has become part of life on board. However at the same time, the number and sophistication of the threats to security have also increased.

Search for maritime security companies near you on Yachtingpages.com

Yacht crew security looking out to sea with binoculars

According to the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB’s) 2016 annual piracy report, more crew were kidnapped at sea in 2016 than in any of the previous 10 years, despite global piracy reaching its lowest levels since 1998. IMB recorded 191 incidents of piracy and armed robbery on the world's seas in 2016.

How to protect your yacht

According to David Tait, director of Graspan Frankton, a global risk consultancy company, "The cost to the global economy from maritime crime including piracy is stated to be between $6 and $18 Billion.” This clearly shows not only the size of the problem but also how being unprotected could have serious consequences.

Threats come in all shapes and sizes; robbery, fraud, espionage, criminal damage, violence, invasion of privacy and piracy/crime at sea. Huge amounts of money are spent each year by international organisations, governments, owners, charters and crew operators in the name of safer and better-protected yachts.

Self-protection measures have proven the most successful means of preventing a pirate attack and 80% of attacks outside the GOA (Gulf of Aden) have been disrupted with correct implementation of maritime security.

These statements speak for themselves and the importance for crew and asset safety is paramount. The difficulty however is the understanding of how to apply this effectively. There are a number of products and services in the maritime industry that safely and effectively secure your crew and assets.

Personal protection at sea - Close protection officers

Close protection, by those who use or employ specialised CPOs (Close Protection Officers), is considered to be one of the most difficult security strategies to construct. It’s not uncommon for CPO’s to be with clients throughout their entire normal working day and when building the right level of security plan it's just as important to consider how the CPO will integrate, without disruption to the client, as the objective is to provide and deliver the right level of protection.

Two armed security officers keeping watch on ship deckTwo armed close protection officers keeping watch on superyacht deck

To tackle the modern day sophisticated hazards, be it theft, kidnapping and assault, information security or just unwanted attention, needs the right team with the correct experience and skills. It is important that all their CPOs and teams have extensive experience and knowledge of:

  • Personal protective principles
  • Medical and trauma application
  • Defensive and protective driving techniques
  • Venue and resident security
  • Counter and anti-surveillance practices

Once the need to seek close security is identified, Graspan Frankton has given some suggestions to ensure you don’t get caught out with an unprofessional company.

Check reviews and history: - This is your initial focus, to establish who is out there and what the general consensus is from other yachts and those who have used their services. This can include social media, forum discussions and press releases.

Credentials: - Once you have narrowed your search to several companies that appear to have a professional edge, it’s time to look at their credentials within the maritime yachting security sector. Affiliations to organisations and maritime groups will help, but also case studies. If they don’t have information on their website, ask them for details on previous clients. Many CPOs will typically have military backgrounds.

Licencing and insurance: - Your search is narrowing and you now need to conduct some due diligence to ensure you, the yacht and crew will be protected legally. Conducting security operations attract different laws and insurance depending on the area you'll be operating. Does the security company understand flag state, international, coastal state and third party law? Will they be using firearms for high-risk voyages?

Quality management policy: - Recognised quality management accreditation such as ISO is a starting point, or an SIA (Security Industry Authority) level 3 licence in close protection, but don’t just leave it here. Ask to see their policy and procedure on organisational management, operator recruitment, background checks, legal support, operator CPD (continuous professional development) and refresher training.

Financial stability and backing: - It's important that they can demonstrate the financial capability to fulfil your proposed security needs. It’s paramount to understand this, because you don’t want security teams walking out part way through the project because the company has dissolved or they have't been paid. They should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the latest intelligence systems and threats.

Armed VIP protection officers aiming gun from yacht deck

Have a comparison: - Regardless of the service, there is always a minimum of two providers that you should go through the process with. If you find a potential security company and then commence going through all this research only to find out they’re not right, having a comparison will save time.

Another key section of yacht security is electronic security

Electronic security devices not only look impressive, but also greatly aide in the battle of maritime security. Some technologies available in the industry include;

  • An Internet protocol camera/ IP camera: - This is a type of digital video camera commonly employed for surveillance, and which unlike analogue closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras can send and receive data via a computer network and the Internet.
  • Biometric access controls: - Used in computer science as a form of identification and access control examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, face recognition, DNA, palm print, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina and odour/scent.
  • Wireless signal jamming: - The Wireless Signal Jammer Device can be used to temporarily stop transmission, temporarily short out or turn off the power during the usage of units. These include radios, televisions, microwaves, or any unit that receives electrical signals for operation.
  • Fully-equipped Citadel Rooms: – This is a safe room that is implemented into the design of the superyacht.
  • Long-range acoustic device (LRAD): - Is an acoustic hailing device and sonic weapon developed by LRAD Corporation to send messages, warnings, and harmful, pain inducing tones over longer distances.
  • Laser threat deterrent: - Laser cannon to disorient the attackers without inflicting any permanent harm.
  • Night/Thermal night surveillance: - It is vital that surveillance can be effective 24/7.
  • Electronic intrusion detection: - Is a device or software application that monitors network or system activities for malicious activities or policy violations and produces reports to a management station.
  • Ship Armour: - You can protect your yacht with bullet-proof armour, which can be deployed to cover all open areas in just under 10 seconds. This would prevent intrusion, robbery, kidnap or worse.

Ultimately, however, any yacht security system is only as good as the people who operate it – usually the crew. The technology does exist, but it’s up to the human element to deploy it. Whatever level of security program you ultimately choose for your yacht, crew training is one of the most essential elements.

Read our guide on the latest maritime security equipment for full details

Street security camerasCCTV camera

Complete integration of your yacht security is the key

Throughout the whole industry there is a huge emphasis on a security system that integrates all the above methods. No one single security method will be effective on its own; it's a combination of many that will truly secure the superyacht. INTEGRATION is the key.

Yacht security is diverse and the complexities vary considerably. It’s important for financial and safety reasons therefore, to ensure you are meticulous in your assessment of the potential external security services you commission as part of your overall yacht security plan.

All security breaches should be reported; in the event of an attack contact UKMTO, IMB or MARLO.

  1. UK Maritime Trade Organisation (UKMTO)

    Emergency contact number: +971 50 55 23215. Email: ukmto@eim.ae.

    UKMTO coordinates the management of merchant ships and yachts in high risk areas (HRAs). If transiting the HRA it’s recommended that yachts keep position with the UKMTO on a daily basis.

  2. International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre

    Emergency contact number: +603 2031 0014.

    The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world's only independent 24-hour manned centre to receive reports of pirate attacks from around the world. IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy.

  3. MARLO: Gulf of Aden

    Emergency contact number: +973 3940 1395. Email: marlo.bahrain@me.navy.mil.

    US-flagged vessels transiting the HRA may wish to contact MARLO which keeps a 24-hour watch. MARLO’s mission is to facilitate the exchange of information between the United States Navy, Combined Maritime Forces, and the commercial maritime community in the United States Central Command's (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.

Find maritime security companies here, or learn about the latest yacht security equipment.

YP Refit Skyscraper

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Tips on maritime security: Creating a real security culture on board yachts

Written by Michelle Williams | With thanks to Graspan Frankton

Last updated: 27/02/2017

Since the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code came into force in 2004, there have been significant developments in the training, information, products and services available to yacht security. Security has become part of life on board. However at the same time, the number and sophistication of the threats to security have also increased.

Search for maritime security companies near you on Yachtingpages.com

Yacht crew security looking out to sea with binoculars

According to the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB’s) 2016 annual piracy report, more crew were kidnapped at sea in 2016 than in any of the previous 10 years, despite global piracy reaching its lowest levels since 1998. IMB recorded 191 incidents of piracy and armed robbery on the world's seas in 2016.

How to protect your yacht

According to David Tait, director of Graspan Frankton, a global risk consultancy company, "The cost to the global economy from maritime crime including piracy is stated to be between $6 and $18 Billion.” This clearly shows not only the size of the problem but also how being unprotected could have serious consequences.

Threats come in all shapes and sizes; robbery, fraud, espionage, criminal damage, violence, invasion of privacy and piracy/crime at sea. Huge amounts of money are spent each year by international organisations, governments, owners, charters and crew operators in the name of safer and better-protected yachts.

Self-protection measures have proven the most successful means of preventing a pirate attack and 80% of attacks outside the GOA (Gulf of Aden) have been disrupted with correct implementation of maritime security.

These statements speak for themselves and the importance for crew and asset safety is paramount. The difficulty however is the understanding of how to apply this effectively. There are a number of products and services in the maritime industry that safely and effectively secure your crew and assets.

Personal protection at sea - Close protection officers

Close protection, by those who use or employ specialised CPOs (Close Protection Officers), is considered to be one of the most difficult security strategies to construct. It’s not uncommon for CPO’s to be with clients throughout their entire normal working day and when building the right level of security plan it's just as important to consider how the CPO will integrate, without disruption to the client, as the objective is to provide and deliver the right level of protection.

Two armed security officers keeping watch on ship deckTwo armed close protection officers keeping watch on superyacht deck

To tackle the modern day sophisticated hazards, be it theft, kidnapping and assault, information security or just unwanted attention, needs the right team with the correct experience and skills. It is important that all their CPOs and teams have extensive experience and knowledge of:

  • Personal protective principles
  • Medical and trauma application
  • Defensive and protective driving techniques
  • Venue and resident security
  • Counter and anti-surveillance practices

Once the need to seek close security is identified, Graspan Frankton has given some suggestions to ensure you don’t get caught out with an unprofessional company.

Check reviews and history: - This is your initial focus, to establish who is out there and what the general consensus is from other yachts and those who have used their services. This can include social media, forum discussions and press releases.

Credentials: - Once you have narrowed your search to several companies that appear to have a professional edge, it’s time to look at their credentials within the maritime yachting security sector. Affiliations to organisations and maritime groups will help, but also case studies. If they don’t have information on their website, ask them for details on previous clients. Many CPOs will typically have military backgrounds.

Licencing and insurance: - Your search is narrowing and you now need to conduct some due diligence to ensure you, the yacht and crew will be protected legally. Conducting security operations attract different laws and insurance depending on the area you'll be operating. Does the security company understand flag state, international, coastal state and third party law? Will they be using firearms for high-risk voyages?

Quality management policy: - Recognised quality management accreditation such as ISO is a starting point, or an SIA (Security Industry Authority) level 3 licence in close protection, but don’t just leave it here. Ask to see their policy and procedure on organisational management, operator recruitment, background checks, legal support, operator CPD (continuous professional development) and refresher training.

Financial stability and backing: - It's important that they can demonstrate the financial capability to fulfil your proposed security needs. It’s paramount to understand this, because you don’t want security teams walking out part way through the project because the company has dissolved or they have't been paid. They should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the latest intelligence systems and threats.

Armed VIP protection officers aiming gun from yacht deck

Have a comparison: - Regardless of the service, there is always a minimum of two providers that you should go through the process with. If you find a potential security company and then commence going through all this research only to find out they’re not right, having a comparison will save time.

Another key section of yacht security is electronic security

Electronic security devices not only look impressive, but also greatly aide in the battle of maritime security. Some technologies available in the industry include;

  • An Internet protocol camera/ IP camera: - This is a type of digital video camera commonly employed for surveillance, and which unlike analogue closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras can send and receive data via a computer network and the Internet.
  • Biometric access controls: - Used in computer science as a form of identification and access control examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, face recognition, DNA, palm print, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina and odour/scent.
  • Wireless signal jamming: - The Wireless Signal Jammer Device can be used to temporarily stop transmission, temporarily short out or turn off the power during the usage of units. These include radios, televisions, microwaves, or any unit that receives electrical signals for operation.
  • Fully-equipped Citadel Rooms: – This is a safe room that is implemented into the design of the superyacht.
  • Long-range acoustic device (LRAD): - Is an acoustic hailing device and sonic weapon developed by LRAD Corporation to send messages, warnings, and harmful, pain inducing tones over longer distances.
  • Laser threat deterrent: - Laser cannon to disorient the attackers without inflicting any permanent harm.
  • Night/Thermal night surveillance: - It is vital that surveillance can be effective 24/7.
  • Electronic intrusion detection: - Is a device or software application that monitors network or system activities for malicious activities or policy violations and produces reports to a management station.
  • Ship Armour: - You can protect your yacht with bullet-proof armour, which can be deployed to cover all open areas in just under 10 seconds. This would prevent intrusion, robbery, kidnap or worse.

Ultimately, however, any yacht security system is only as good as the people who operate it – usually the crew. The technology does exist, but it’s up to the human element to deploy it. Whatever level of security program you ultimately choose for your yacht, crew training is one of the most essential elements.

Read our guide on the latest maritime security equipment for full details

Street security camerasCCTV camera

Complete integration of your yacht security is the key

Throughout the whole industry there is a huge emphasis on a security system that integrates all the above methods. No one single security method will be effective on its own; it's a combination of many that will truly secure the superyacht. INTEGRATION is the key.

Yacht security is diverse and the complexities vary considerably. It’s important for financial and safety reasons therefore, to ensure you are meticulous in your assessment of the potential external security services you commission as part of your overall yacht security plan.

All security breaches should be reported; in the event of an attack contact UKMTO, IMB or MARLO.

  1. UK Maritime Trade Organisation (UKMTO)

    Emergency contact number: +971 50 55 23215. Email: ukmto@eim.ae.

    UKMTO coordinates the management of merchant ships and yachts in high risk areas (HRAs). If transiting the HRA it’s recommended that yachts keep position with the UKMTO on a daily basis.

  2. International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre

    Emergency contact number: +603 2031 0014.

    The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world's only independent 24-hour manned centre to receive reports of pirate attacks from around the world. IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy.

  3. MARLO: Gulf of Aden

    Emergency contact number: +973 3940 1395. Email: marlo.bahrain@me.navy.mil.

    US-flagged vessels transiting the HRA may wish to contact MARLO which keeps a 24-hour watch. MARLO’s mission is to facilitate the exchange of information between the United States Navy, Combined Maritime Forces, and the commercial maritime community in the United States Central Command's (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.

Find maritime security companies here, or learn about the latest yacht security equipment.

YP Refit Skyscraper