“The use of safe rooms has grown in the past few years,” comments insurance broker Jenny Carter-Vaughan. “More and more high profile superyacht owners are having them installed.” Although more commonly found in high-end residential properties, a panic room, also known as a Citadel, serves as the last resort when a building has been breached. The enclosed space is fitted with independent supplies, communication and power to carry you over until assistance arrives. For a fixed structure, it can be very valuable and offers peace of mind for the owner.
Translating this onto a yacht is not so easy and adds another level of complexity. At the time of writing Gatto was working on two superyacht builds where a panic room had been requested. He explains that to fit such a feature on anything smaller than a 60m would be very challenging, as it requires so much space. “On both projects, we created an independent unit space that sits hidden away within the yacht and is never used unless there is an emergency,” says the founder of Cristiano Gatto Design. “It includes communication and an escape hatch.”
He goes on to reveal that the ability to leave the yacht unseen is important and involves careful consideration and independent access. Separate communication, air-con and air circulation systems, water and food supplies have to be accounted. This takes up valuable guest and owner space for an event that is less likely to occur on a structure that can be moved.
“In my experience you don’t need a panic room if you have a great crew because you basically have 20 bodyguards around you,” says Gatto. “The boat itself is a big panic room if you think about it, as you can move it and could escape from it using a helicopter or submarine — common features on yachts 60m and above.”
In the 20 years that Rob Doyle of Rob Doyle Design has been designing yachts, he has never been asked to include a panic room on board. However, he appreciates that it comes down to the client’s background and that a Middle Eastern client is more likely to want a feature such as this over a European or North American client. “We have been very lucky in this industry that we have not seen any real use of safe rooms to date,” Doyle says. “Maybe the security staff and captains just keep a sharp vigil and don’t expose their clients to high risk areas.”
“We have a few clients who won’t trade up to bigger yachts,” he adds. “They would rather have two smaller sized vessels that blend in with the current average size fleet than to have a very large vessel that stands out as a target.”
While there is value in having a panic room in a residential property, it would be hard to say they are necessary on a superyacht. With the number of advisers and qualified ex-military experts available to guide an owner on his or her voyage, together with cleverly designed exteriors with limited open access to the water, it would be hard to justify the cost in manufacture and space needed for the inclusion of such a room.