Piracy has led to a rise in the gadgets available to protect yachts against boarding, while they travel through high-risk areas (HRA).
However, using this technology can be a case of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Some devices are not yet proven in the maritime environment, no matter how exciting the salesman make them sound, and the usefulness of others is questionable.
Outfitting a yacht for security
Companies such as Greece and US-based Balinor International put together anti-pirate technology (ATP) packages specifically for superyachts. They recommend small-target radar – vital in detecting the small, open skiffs the pirates often use that won’t cause a blip on regular radar – complemented by long-range day and night cameras effective to five nautical miles in the dark, 10 nautical miles in daylight.
A common non-lethal deterrent often deployed is the long-range acoustic device (LRAD). It can be used to hail and warn potential attackers and then switched to ‘fire’: a painful, highly focused sonic wave to repel boarders.
Finally, a laser threat deterrent system can be used to dazzle attackers, so in effect they cannot see the yacht.
This equipment can be retrofitted into a yacht, or it can be installed as part of a new build or a refit. Balinor has an anti-piracy technology plan that details the steps that are taken to prepare a yacht and her crew:
1 New build or retrofit?
For new builds, the security team would continually interact with the yard and architect to ensure wiring, etc, is in place, technology is properly installed and the crew trained.
What is the vessel configuration, and what are the existing systems? What are the primary ports of call? What is the crew complement? Are there any special circumstances? For example, ports or anchorages that have an issue with swimmers boarding vessels may need sonobuoys.
3 Specification and confirmation with the client
From a security perspective, yachts run the gamut, from a radar/camera/non-lethal laser installation to deter paparazzi, to a complete system that includes LRAD, long-range communication, water cannon to repel boarding pirates, access control systems for protection while in port and sonobuoys to detect underwater approach.
Remote command centres, as well as other modes of perimeter protection, are selected based on the requirements of individual vessels and owners.
4 Installation and testing
At this stage the security equipment is put in place in the yacht, and put through its paces to ensure it’s working correctly.
5 Training and exercises
The crew and owner (as required) are drilled in the use of security equipment, and the actions they should take if they are attacked.
6 System sign-off.
Once the security system has been signed off by the client, Balinor provides ongoing worldwide training and support.