The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has alerted its members to the continuing and increasing crime wave of outboard motor thefts. According to joint insurance and police theft register, around one motor a day was being stolen on average in January in the UK alone.

The RYA explains the reason for the continuing trend of stolen is twofold: “Out board motors, which are obviously designed to be detachable, are relatively simple to steal especially compared with integral motors,” the association points out. “They can also be high value items, which are expensive to acquire legitimately and this opportunity and incentive is what is driving this trend and the thieves.” As tender operations are an integral part of working on a superyacht and occasions often arise when superyacht tenders with outboard motors are left unattended in marinas and ports, they can often appear to these thieves as easy targets.

According to the latest theft data acquired by the RYA, “large and highly organised gangs are behind the majority of these thefts that steal outboard motors to order … Sophisticated and extremely determined, these gangs often target motors with values ranging between £8,000 - £15,000 in order to smuggle them out of the country.” Outboard motors in this value range are in the medium to large category, showing that thieves are undeterred by their physical bulk and sheer weight, and means that outboard motors on many superyacht tenders are a prime target.

The RYA contacted Mike Nightingale, manager at Bishop Skinner Marine, to investigate more into the avoiding actions that can be taken to decrease chances of outboard motor theft. His recommendations include the use of branded locks and engine covers to secondary locks and heightened vigilance, but the first step crew should take, Nightingale advises, is to ensure the most secure and suitable anti-theft device for their particular engine and tender is installed.

“Large and highly organised gangs are behind the majority of these thefts that steal outboard motors to order."

“In some local constabularies, police have introduced branded engine covers which are fitted instead of the standard factory supplied cowling,” he explains. “This acts as a deterrent as a thief would then be forced to buy a new cowling, thereby drawing attention to themselves and arousing suspicion. Any engine that can be removed easily is an obvious target for thieves and, given the growing scale of the problem, many [crew] are deciding to fit more than one anti-theft device. Obviously the more visibly secure an engine is, the less likely it is that a thief will attempt to take it. Given the poor rates of recovery success, prevention is definitely better than cure and not only for this reason but also because if a loss does occur it may affect the price of future insurance premiums.”

Nightingale also emphasis that crew should ensure that the yacht’s insurance policy wording relating to anti-theft devices are complied with in full to avoid the possibility of a claim being invalidated due to failure to comply with all policy wordings. “Futher security measures include marking the engine somewhere with your own unique mark such as an address and also taking photographs,” he adds. "[And] technological advances in recent years have made motion-activated surveillance cameras very discrete and inexpensive to buy and install. These automatically photograph and/or record any movement and wireless cameras have made surveillance possible in remote areas where it was not in the past."

To read the letter that the RYA submitted to its members in full, please click here.