Whether berthed, anchored off shore or while out at sea, it is quit possibly the least protected and most difficult residence you will have to protect, as well as protecting those on board.
At present; the security of these vessels has not been a big concern of designers and owners alike at the initial planning stage.
Basic systems such as CCTV are standard; because up until now the low level threat against these types of vessels, namely theft of on board kit and equipment has meant everything else is as an add on and any upgrading of security systems and procedures is driven by the threat against the owner, the cost of purchase, fitting and maintenance, in comparison to the risk of the threat actually happening.
As you are well aware, you can never fully achieve 100% security at all times and on these vessels it is even less so, with chinks in the system that we can either do nothing or very little about.
Let me just say here that there are two different objectives while on board. One is the security objective by the security team and the other is a safety objective by the crew and one sometimes does not complement the other.
Here are some basic lapses that offer access to the vessel in one form or another:
A minimum of 1-2 doors must be left unlocked at all times, by maritime law. Safety in mind - not security.
Untrained or security/threat blind crew, especially when the principal or security team are not on board.
External workmen, again while the principal or security team are not on board have easier access to all areas of the vessel.
Whilst in dry dock for general maintenance or specific repairs the vessel is vulnerable to a number of threats. If your principal has a high enough threat against him/her it is essential that on completion of work in dry dock a thorough electronic, explosive and contraband sweep is carried out.
But let's get back out onto the sea and look at systems that can help you better protect your vessel from attack.
Like the rest of our land based security you have to take a holistic approach and combine elements of electronic, physical and human resources.
Each of these resources will give us time to respond effectively to either attacks or potential attacks.
If you look at the picture below you will note it is split into ever decreasing distances of security. Much like the Coopers colour codes used to enhance awareness of the threats in our environment.
Firstly there are a few things you can do prior to sailing:
Crew training if your principal owns the vessel. Not really possible on a charter yacht, but an advance can be done to find out the state of the vessel and crew.
Visiting port; threat and risk assessments. Although the vessels management company will have a Company Security Officer I would not recommend a third party doing this for you.
Transit/route/location threat and risk assessment.
There are some electronic systems that will have to be doubled up. Remember the two objectives? Well radar is one of these. The radar on the bridge used by the crew is for the safety of the vessel, so with this in mind a second radar, located in the ops room is for the security of the vessel. Here we have choices, do you want a forward only looking radar for when sailing or a 360* looking radar for when sailing and when at anchor. It may be that you will require a combination of both.
As always there is no reliance on just one set of equipment. While at anchor, tenders can be deployed to patrol the vicinity of the verification area (when not used as safety boats of course).
Subsurface detection of vehicles and divers must also be considered and portable detection devices such as the Cerberus Mod2 or other variants are ideal.
Items of equipment such as these give you time to respond to threats at a distance. There are times when these bits of kit are not going to be able to be deployed. It goes without saying that while on board, the ops room is going to have to be manned at all times as well as a standing watch at the stern. If you do not have the manpower or are on the vessel as an individual bodyguard then these bits of kit are of no use.
Your final layer of defence is now on board the vessel. Here the first asset; the security team, the stern will be manned 24/7 on a rotation basis. During silent hours the night shift security, will patrol all decks at various times and will be stationed at the stern to cover the swim platform, the easiest and most likely way someone will get on board. A portable infra red beam can be used to cover the steps leading from the swim platform to the main deck, in event of the beam being Broken a signal is sent to a pager. This is ideal when the security member is patrolling the vessel.
Items at hand should be a powerful hand held torch. Internal mobile phone, radio (If ops room is manned), night vision goggles and video camera.
Escape hatches for the principals berths, only opening one way and leading to various parts of the vessel can be installed alongside submersible escape pods, obviously depending on the size of the boat.
If the vessel is big enough to hold a helicopter then this also can provide another means of escape.
Installing a safe room is possible. The only caveat is that of the vessel sinking.
None of the above is going to work effectively though if you do not have a ships security plan for when the principal is on board. S.O.Ps, 'Actions On' for all eventualities must be planned, written and practiced, not to mention all of the training required to operate items of equipment and your role in the security protection detail.
A few procedures:
Intruder/s on board
Bomb explodes on board
Shots fired on board
Weapons or explosives detected
I have left firearms out intentionally. It took the Commercial sector years to deploy armed riding teams on cargo vessels even after numerous ships were high-jacked. The private Superyacht sector is going to be no different. Yes weapons can be on board but the logistics of actually having them at the moment far out way their need. There will have to be a number of attacks in the Med before having firearms on board becomes the norm.
This does not bode well for those few vessels that will be the first to be attacked by terrorists.
On any 'Action' each security team member must know their role, if not everyone will do what they think they should do and not what they must do. This also goes for the vessels crew.
Do you have your vessels S.O.Ps and 'Actions On' in order?
Does every member of your security team know their role when faced with specific threats?
Vessel protection and protection of the principal while on board requires a full security program, remember it's the principal on holiday, not you!