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Yacht owners have unique security needs. You’re not protecting a stationary object — you’re trying to keep a moving target safe in a place where 911 isn’t a phone call and a few minutes away. It may seem as simple as locking your doors and windows, but there’s a lot more to yacht security than just making sure you pulled the latch shut.
You might not think you have anything to worry about on your own private vessel, but that is simply not true. There are plenty of reasons to consider your safety on board a yacht or a superyacht, but those concerns will be unique to your specific situation.
It may seem unnecessary to worry about things like pirates or intruders on a yacht. You’re probably pretty safe on your superyacht anchored safely off the coast, right?
Perhaps you are. Perhaps you aren’t. At least in part, it will depend on where you travel.
First of all, pirates are a legitimate concern in some parts of the world — the most famous of which are probably from Somalia. In the early 2000’s, Somali pirates attacked vessels, reviving a practice many had only ever believed was a matter of the past. Pirates were no longer what we saw on the Disneyland ride. It was also around this time that Disney released the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, giving further attention to this new-but-old phenomena.
Unlike the movies, the real thing is far more terrifying. In 2009, a French yacht called Tanit was hijacked by Somali pirates. After six days, tensions escalated when the pirates threatened to kill the hostages. As a result, French special forces overtook the vessel, resulting in the deaths of the yacht owner and two pirates. Thankfully, the rest of the family and the three-year-old child were physically unharmed.
Around the same time, the cargo ship Maersk Alabama was famously hijacked by Somali pirates, spawning a movie called Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks.
Of course, piracy didn’t end there or we wouldn’t still be talking about it. In fact, some have characterized this practice as having “a comeback.” One author was captured by a Somali pirate gang and held hostage from early 2012 to late 2014 while traveling to Somalia to conduct research for a book he was writing.
According to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC), there were 174 reported instances of piracy worldwide in 2018.
While Somali pirates may be the first ones that spring to mind, the waters off the coast of Somalia aren’t necessarily the most dangerous. According to 2019 data from the IMB, a significant portion of maritime armed robberies and instances of piracy occurred on the Atlantic side of the African continent (specifically by Nigeria and Cameroon), and off the coasts of Singapore and Malaysia.
Like home invaders, many pirates are seeking out lucrative targets. They look for cargo ships carrying lots of consumer goods (hoping they’ll find something worth a decent amount of money), oil tankers, the (very) occasional cruise ship, and luxury vessels like yachts and superyachts.
And unfortunately, there’s often a ransom involved in hijacking a vessel — particularly with yachts because they can safely assume the owner has a significant amount of money, or easy access to cash.
Pirates are typically looking for valuable items — cash, jewels, guns. And while many pirates aren’t looking to physically harm the people they come in contact with, they’re often carrying weapons, which is obviously meant to be intimidating — people are more likely to comply when they’re being threatened with a weapon at close range. But it is also completely terrifying and traumatic.
Sometimes, pirates will actually fire at the yacht before trying to hijack it. The motive for doing so would be difficult to ascertain, but theoretically, if they can scare the people on board enough to make them compliant, the hijackers may be able to get what they want more quickly.
You may be thinking that you simply won’t go to areas where pirates are known to hang out — and that’s a great strategy for keeping safe. However, even being docked at a safe port leaves you open to possible intruders. Some people may just be brazen enough to simply walk on board and begin looking for valuables. And if you just happen to be on the vessel at the time, you could get caught up in a conflict you weren’t prepared for.
Regardless of your plans for the yacht of your dreams, you need to make sure you have security plan in place in the event of an emergency.
All yacht owners are at least a little bit familiar with piracy warnings and some forms of yacht security. Yacht owners choose varying levels of security to help fortify their vessels, depending on their level of concern.
Anthony Sands, CEO and founder of Edge Yachts, says that most security measures can be broken down into two categories: 1) soft security assets and 2) hard security assets. “Soft security assets would involve having well-qualified armed security guards that blend into the circumstances.” These assets probably don’t look like Secret Service agents — they’re more likely to be dressed in more casual attire, but they’re still armed.
Sands describes hard security assets as being more technology or hardware-based. Tools like LRAD, sonar, anti-drone protection, ghosting systems, and citadels built into the middle of the yachts would all be considered “hard” security assets.
Sands has been in the maritime industry nearly his whole life. He has a lot of experience with vessels of many sizes. Because of the wealthy and often famous nature of his clientele, he is under strict nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements. He cannot speak names of people or vessels. But he says he has a variety of clients — some of whom want the works, and others couldn’t care less about anything more than a locked door.
For high-profile, well-known people who may be fleeing paparazzi at any given moment, security might be a larger issue. They may be concerned with physical safety for any number of reasons — perhaps they’ve made controversial statements that have received press coverage, or the simple fact that they’re famous puts them in a certain degree of danger — and those clients may choose both hard and soft security assets.
However, some of his other clients can’t be bothered at all. “It’s not even on their radar,” he says. They’re uniquely fortunate in the fact that they’re incredibly wealthy, but they’re not household names. “They’re not being quoted in the New York Times. They’re not in the media. They could walk into McDonald’s and no one would have any idea who they are, or that they have a lot of money.”
Sands is careful to note that he’s not in the business of private security. He does not provide soft or hard security assets for any of this clients. However, he works closely with the security teams his clients hire to ensure they’re receiving the level of security they require on their yacht.
While Sands says that hard security assets aren’t as common among his clients, he admits that fortified doors and windows are more common than most other options. “This is where the idea of a citadel comes in — you have a safe place where a family can go in case someone is trying to overtake the vessel.”
And this built-in fortress on the vessel is where we come in.
Sands acknowledges that one of the largest security concerns on a yacht is someone actually boarding the vessel. It’s not as if you can run out the door and go to your neighbor’s house for help. If you’re on a yacht, the only place to go is in the water, which will come with its own host of safety issues.
Sands says that they’ve been fortunate enough to not have anyone boarding a yacht they manage while the owners are actually present, or out at sea. The only time they’ve dealt with such issues have been at port, while no one was on the vessel.
“Most of the time, having security on deck is enough of a deterrent to keep unwanted people away.” This would be part of the “soft” security Sands mentioned. Even if they don’t obviously look like it, the chances are good that these guards are armed.
But in the event that someone (pirate or otherwise) does try to overtake your yacht while you’re on board, you’ll want a safe place to go where the intruders cannot have access to you and your family. Security windows can keep you safe from gunfire while you’re inside and when combined with security doors, you essentially have a safe room that no one can break into. Nothing is getting through our windows — not a sledgehammer, not an axe, not even an AK-47.
If you look at images of the French Tanit under control of the Somali pirates, you see a family sitting mere inches from people holding military-grade weapons. It’s an unthinkable situation for any parent to be in — stuck on open water with your child and intruders with loaded weapons.
Even if you’re docked and an armed intruder tries to come aboard your yacht, having a safe room installed on your vessel could be the difference between life and death. Building in a space that is completely fortified and secure affords you a place to take your family in an emergency.
Combining these hard security measures with soft security — like keeping guards on the deck, or on the dock — can provide enough of a warning to give you the precious time you need to get inside and lock the doors.
The size of your yacht would determine where you can place a safe room (if you can have a safe room), but if you choose to install security doors and windows instead, the entire interior of your yacht becomes fortified and secure.
By making every interior space completely safe, you take the “panic” out of panic room. You’re making it a sanctuary where you can properly relax — unconcerned about someone taking over your vessel because they can’t get to you anyway. Even if they come aboard, they can’t harm you, and you’re inside where you can safely call for help.
By installing security doors and windows on your yacht, what you’re doing is ensuring peace of mind, and isn’t that exactly what you should have?
Sands noted that they’ve done yacht security doors on both new builds and retrofits. While custom building your own yacht is something many yacht owners dream of, it’s just not always feasible. So remember that if you’ve purchased a vessel you love, but you want to upgrade it and make it more secure — you can.
FBS doors and windows are completely customizable for whatever space is necessary.
Sands also pointed out that he always follows whatever security protocols that his clients’ security team recommends. “They’re the experts. We work with them to make sure the client has what they need.”
For example, they do a lot of proactive, forward planning with their yacht management clients and their security teams. They look at itineraries and conduct threat assessments before their clients go on trips so that everyone involved can be as prepared as possible. “We generally keep our clients out of areas that aren’t deemed safe. We’re not recommending our clients go to the coast of Somalia.”
Remember that safety and security on your yacht isn’t just about security windows and doors — it’s also about being smart about your travels and keeping abreast of piracy warnings across the globe. While you can’t always be sure you’ll avoid potential intruders, you can minimize the risk.
Regardless, if your security team recommends some hard security assets, like fortified windows and doors, we’ve got you covered. We pride ourselves on being able to make anything our clients want. No matter what your yacht looks like, we can make custom doors that blend in perfectly and don’t look at all like a “security door.”
Check out our many covering options and let us know what finishes you’d like on your vessel. We can even set you up with biometric entry so you can be sure no one who isn’t allowed to be in your sanctuary can gain access. Feel free to email us, give us a call, or schedule a visit to one of our showrooms. We’d love to help you create the yacht of your dreams!
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