Along with the sheer pleasure and joys of owning a stunning vessel, unfortunately come downsides too. The risks of violence and criminality – robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, piracy, smuggling, cyber-attacks, intrusion, extortion and all kinds of nefarious threats are real and present, and they cannot and should not be ignored. Criminals are aware of the potential rich pickings when it comes to private yachts, and so it is vital that they are not seen as a soft or vulnerable target. 

While there are of course a multitude of modifications, add-ons and fixes that we apply, perhaps one of the primary changes we can make is that of the crew and their vision, understanding and role in ensuring the security of those onboard.

We work with the captain to gain a picture of the training requirements of the crew – not just from the mandatory, flag State perspective, which many now require. We take a far wider view, taking time to understand their role, background and the responsibilities that they would be expected to both in order to guard against security problems, and if the worst were to happen.

By understanding the people in the security chain, we can instil knowledge, and appreciation and of how vital their role is.

The facts remain that large yachts are increasingly being considered within the regulations governing shipping, and there is a need to reflect the regulations that are in place, such as the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW). The so-called, 2010 Manila Amendments, reflected the need for crewmembers aboard superyachts to be able to play a role in security.

These STCW revisions require additional training for all superyacht crew that work aboard International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code compliant vessels, and this new level of training must be completed at approved training centres, according to the flag flown by the vessel.

Depending on the on board role, crew are required to complete one of two new courses. The course that is required for all crewmembers, regardless of their duties, is “Proficiency in Security Awareness.” This four-hour training programme covers just the basics of the importance of security, measures to enhance it, as well as how to recognise and report a threat.

For more senior crew, and particularly those required to implement ship security plans (SSP), then there is a need to undertake a, “Proficiency for Seafarers with Designated Security Duties,” course which probes more deeply into security measures and procedures aboard a yacht in six key areas, such as access control, restricted areas, managing stores and baggage, as well as monitoring security and the prevention and suppression of piracy and armed robbery.

Such security training programmes are a good foundation and entry point, ensuring crew appreciate they are the eyes and ears of the yacht, while also recognising the vital importance of taking the right actions to assure the safety of the guests and crew on board. However, we believe it takes more than just a few hours of training to really enhance security.

By understanding the people in the security chain, we can instil knowledge, and appreciation and of how vital their role is. We have found many crew over the years for whom security, despite their supposed certificates, has been something of a joke, a side consideration once everything has been squared away.

That is not acceptable, and we have learned over the years to not just challenge any misperceptions within crews, but we have worked to help them see just how vital security is, and of how they can make a difference. This is slowly changing as the luxury yacht market professionalises ever more – there are pockets of resistance to new ideas and demands, but in the main the new generations of masters and crew have grown used to the ideas of having to think not just about the fun and enjoyment of yachting, but the dangers too. There is still work to be done, but there is now a much greater understanding of the risks and their solutions.