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Protecting parties on board

Björn Pyll of Pyll Protection, ex-bodyguard of Angela Merkel, discusses how to protect superyacht events…

At any one time, marinas around the Mediterranean contain billions of euros in assets, not only in the form of yachts, but also in the form of the guests. On weekends during the summer season in particular, parties and receptions are held on board and attended by wealthy personalities from politics, business and sport. As an experienced bodyguard, I have looked at such events many times with mixed feelings. Only in the rarest of cases are the security precautions proportionate to the risk of such an event. I was asked recently by a client what proportionate precautions would look like, and I would like to outline my answer in the following.

Let's say you want to have an evening event on your 60m yacht in the harbour just below the old town of Ibiza. Some 70 people have been invited, including two well-known football players and their partners, a senior politician and family and three directors of listed companies. Of course, you invest in good catering, high-quality drinks and possibly an entertainment element. This would not be an event in need of the highest level of security, but just having crewmembers on board would not be sufficient. Investing in professional security personnel might even make some guests feel more comfortable, especially those in the public eye. 

The way that I would take responsibility for such an event would be with six staff members; two of whom would be in charge of entrance control and the other four would be spread around the yacht mingling with the guests. The staff at the gangway would carry out professional access and bag control, leaving only those guests on board who have actually been invited. Excuses like, ‘my friend is already on board’ or, ‘I know the owner’ are accepted but friendly and definitively rejected – celebrities on board always attract unwanted ‘guests’. It is also important to protect the privacy of the owner, to preserve the anonymity of the guests and protect the property of the host.

The four personnel mingling on board would be dressed for the event and wear their radio and other equipment concealed under their jackets – unsubtle securities in uniform would not be appropriate for this occasion. Depending on the situation, an employee is assigned to the port to keep an eye on the surroundings of the yacht and identify potential troublemakers at an early stage.

My client then asked, quite rightly, why such an event needs to be protected by up to seven employees. Firstly, such a celebration involves certain risks for the host and the guests due to its exclusive guest-list and size. An individual security concept with an appropriate personnel approach should, for example, ensure that the event is not disturbed and that any evacuation takes place quickly and in an orderly manner. This can only be done by trained personnel. Secondly, top-class events attract high-profile criminals that need to be deterred.

Of course, it has to be emphasised, that there have been very few incidents at superyacht events so far. But the deployment of professional security personnel can reduce this rate to almost zero and, above all, give everyone involved a good feeling.

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