Yacht Security

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Yacht Security

In law an “attractive nuisance” refers to a feature of our environment (natural or man-made) that has the potential to be harmful, such as an uncovered well, an un-gated pool, or a swift moving stream.  In short, any feature that could attract children or the feeble-minded might qualify as an attractive nuisance.  I’ve recently been schooled in the treatment of yachts as an attractive nuisance – appealing to lookey-loos, party crashers, thieves, and kidnappers.

I was reminded of this designation on a recent tour of the harbour in Nassau, Bahamas.  The harbor was teeming with yachts of all sizes and flags.  The gentleman giving me the tour was part of a private security detail — all in plain clothes — that monitor the harbor 24/7.  The following is a short summary of our long and wide ranging conversation.

A yacht operates in two environments, at anchor (docked or at a mooring) or in motion.  A vast majority of the time a yacht is at a rest, and at these times it is vulnerable to specific threats.  Small nuisances, such as gawkers, are easy to deal with — engage them in conversation and end it as politely as possible.  One mate had this down pat, he would talk to anyone about the boat (nothing about the owner), and when asked permission to come on board, the answer was a firm no.  If someone did try to board, his job was to show them to the water, as he preferred they get wet to him losing his job.

Yachts are the celebration of a successful life, as well they should be – and as such there is regular entertaining aboard, with a lot of coming and going.  One part of the security detail job is to know all guests in advance, and to allow no crashers on board.  Guests unfamiliar with the vessel are taken aside by security (preferably by a smart female officer) and given the rules of the boat, information about where not to go, what shoes are required (and where to find some), where the restrooms are located, where to find flotation devices, where they can store personal belongings, and other information specific to the vessel.  This informal “familiarization” routine helps things run smoothly, and subtly reminds the guests that you are constantly watching and care about their safety.  There may also be the needs for screening of guests similar to that before boarding an airplane – if needed there are many hand held and mobile devices such as mobile x-ray equipment to aid in any screening.

Onboard, the technical side can get crazy expensive (and crazy cool).  Cameras are everywhere, some visible and some not.  The cameras and the housings are all of marine quality – as anything less will quickly fail.  Two common camera positions are on the pier near the boat (rf camera), and in the tender.  The bad guys know you have cameras, but they generally miss these two positions.  Another surveillance device is a remotely operated submersible camera generally used for hull inspections.  Many “party crashers” have, and unwanted guests will board by swimming to the boat.  Just be ready.

Electronic Eye.  Just like those used in retail markets, an electronic eye warns security when someone has moved too close, or is attempting to board.

Strain Detectors.  These are complicated little devices that attach to the mooring lines, and claim they can discern the normal movement of a boat at anchor from a human crawling up the line.

Motion Detectors.  These are placed everywhere, and activated whenever any part of the vessel should not be in use.

Electrified Railings.  Like an electrified fence for animals, it does not kill — but it will get your attention.  Can be used either at rest or in motion.

When a yacht is in motion…

In additional to what is used at anchor, there are tools such as the SeaOwl tracking system, a long-range radar combined with thermal imaging to monitor traffic.  These tracking systems are used to discern travel patterns of other vessels to determine if they pose a threat.  If they do, you can use L-Rad, a long-range acoustical weapon that will discourage an approach.  Water cannons are always an option, as well as conventional firearms.

Ideally the security detail will get an intelligence report on activity along the planned route, and reroute the trip to avoid any known dangers – as an investment in planning is far less expensive than ransom.

Dry Dock…

Even the best of ships may need to be dry docked for repairs and refitting.  Two protocols must be observed – excellent security in the shipyard and a through prescreening of the vessel after the repairs / refitting.  The vessel should be screened for explosives, listening devices, tracking devices and a full review of the wiring of all of the electronics should be completed to insure to “extra” bits of equipment have been wired in place.  While you are at it also makes sense to have a drug dog sniff everything and everywhere.

An investment in security should be proportional to the assets being protected and the threats presented in the operating environment.  The threats posed in the Great Lakes or in Guernsey are far different than in Veracruz or Zanzibar.  Hire a professional, make the assessment, and invest in security appropriate to the location, the threat, and the budget.

This Executive Protection article was written or edited by Baron James Shortt, the Executive Director of the IBA. http://www.ibabodyguards.com

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