Private Maritime Security Company Provide Safety for Yachts in Pirate Infested Waters
By Tom Clarke
Piracy is a hot topic of concern these days not only for commercial vessels but for privately owned yachts. Wealthy yacht owners are now at risk of being held hostage or worse, killed, by pirates boarding their vessels in unprotected waters looking for a lucrative ransom. The average mega yacht is worth $1 million per square meter. Considering that mega yachts usually carry large sums of cash and valuables on board and they cruise at low speeds, at anchor or they have become prime targets for pirates.
Private Yacht owners and crews are facing increased piracy threats around the world, including many popular ports in the Caribbean off the coast of Florida, the Mediterranean, Mexico, South Pacific, Singapore, Maldives, Africa, Gulf of Suez, Oman, Aden or the Arabic Sea. The current state is that the pirates now see the crew, cargo and vessel as a single commodity and demand a higher fee during the ransom negotiation.
In response to the escalating piracy threat to yacht owners, Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) are popping up all over the globe, but not all qualified. The basic levels of Private Yacht Maritime Security are:
Deterrent Level: An adequate level of armed maritime guards on the ship. Most common staff are ex-military or law enforcement. Be cautious when as you do your due diligence, these are not regulated sufficiently at this time.
Reactionary Force Level: The highest level of maritime security. Common staff is EX US Navy SEALs, after all this is what their background is best suited for. The reactionary force level most often will have a dedicated counter sniper; medics and one company is even using UAV-Drones as a standard equipment.
Most of them are staffed by former military and police members, typically Special Operations Force types, experienced in government and private security services protecting high profile individuals and their assets. Some companies train private yacht owners and their crew in security measures and provide a well-outfitted, highly skilled security team that is attached unobtrusively to a crew to handle the worst case scenarios involving kidnapping and high jacking.
These PMSCs train yacht owners, their captains and crew in areas such as: shipboard emergency procedures, physical security plans, crisis management, conflict resolution, piracy attacks and countermeasures, personal self defense, reconnaissance services used to identity safe sea lanes and ports of call, threat assessments with itinerary reviews, medical training and crew vetting. They can augment existing yacht security with highly trained armed guards and specialized equipment such as alarm systems and surveillance detection equipment. Some yachts even have built in escape pods and panic rooms.
Financial Loss: The estimated annual loss due to piracy worldwide is about $13 to $16 billion. Unfortunately, most carriers decide not to report piracy incidents due to the financial burden. When an incident of piracy is reported, ship owners experience insurance rates that can increase by as much as 30% as well as the daily loss incurred during an investigation that can often run about $1000 a day. Source: http://www.criminaljusticeusa.com
Frequency. Piracy is a frequent activity happening much more often than what makes the news. Take a look at the Live Piracy Report and the Live Piracy Map at the ICC Commercial Crime Services and you will see that reported piracy incidents are currently occurring at about 20-30 per month. While not all incidents result in kidnapping or theft, many do. Source: http://www.criminaljusticeusa.com
Private yacht owners are also starting to equip their vessels with militaristic technology such as radar, infrared and thermal imaging cameras to detect approaching vessels and divers. One such military defense system is a long-range acoustic device (LRAD) that can blast an alarm so deafeningly loud that when it is directed at attackers, it can force them to retreat. Some LRAD devices allow a vessel to warn approaching vessels up to 3000 meters away with prerecorded messages in any target language.
Another lure for pirates to take over a private yacht is that they can use the vessel as a “mother ship”. Once commandeered by pirates, that vessel becomes the command and control center for other piracy operations in the area. Pirates will hold a yacht owner and its crew hostage until a ransom is paid; a month, six months, a year, or more. These are life threatening situations that can be avoided by hiring PMSCs.
So with all this hype about private security teams and armed guards on privately owned yachts, is it actually legal? Yes. However, at present, no international guidance or standards exist for PMSCs providing such services. The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) Intersessional Maritime Security and Piracy Working Group of the Maritime Safety Committee, met at IMO Headquarters in London back in September 2011 and approved Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) circulars for dissemination which provided interim guidance on the approved use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships to counter Somali-based piracy.
The MSC.1/Circ.1443 25 May 2012, INTERIM GUIDANCE TO PRIVATE MARITIME SECURITY COMPANIES PROVIDING PRIVATELY CONTRACTED ARMED SECURITY PERSONNEL ON BOARD SHIPS IN THE HIGH RISK AREA, promotes safe and lawful conduct at sea by providing guidance on how to improve governance regarding the capabilities of and use of PMSCs. Basically, PMSCs need to acknowledge the legal responsibilities of their PCASPs and yacht owners need to make an informed judgment on who they select to hire as a PMSC. Yacht owners will still need to adhere to a flag State’s laws and national requirements especially regarding transport, carriage and stowage of firearms, ammunition and security equipment attached to their PCASPs.
According to an article written in The Economist, Laws and Guns, April 14, 2012, “No ship carrying armed guards has so far been hijacked.” As a result, governments are now trying to write laws and regulations for armed guards at sea to answer questions such as: how do PMSCs buy and store security weapons? What are the approved weapon types for PMSCs to carry? What are the standards of training for PMSCs? What is the acceptable use of deadly force for PMSCs?
According to an article written in The Bahamas Weekly By Lindsay Thompson Sep 7, 2012. The Bahamas is ranked the fifth largest ship registry in the world. It also maintains the largest cruise ships registry. “The Government of The Bahamas through the Bahamas Maritime Authority has pledged its absolute support to counter-piracy efforts and has implemented several security and prevention measures,” The Bahamas is continuing to throw its support behind counter-piracy efforts and have implemented several measures to prevent such acts on the high seas.
Every yacht owner should be thinking very seriously about incorporating intelligence, security and technology into their itinerary planning and travel management. Yacht owners and their Captains should avoid setting themselves up as bait in waters off the coast of Somalia, Nigeria, the southern Red sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, and most of the eastern side of the Indian Ocean. And if they must transit these areas, they need to equip their private yacht with a PMSC. There have also been reported attacks in the Mediterranean, one off the coast of Naples.
It is obvious from recent events in the news that pirates are still testing the waters when it comes to mitigating the effectiveness and success of private yacht security measures. Unfortunately, West African governments do not allow armed security guards aboard privately owned vessels. As a result, pirates are encouraged to continue attacks on privately owned yachts with little to no risk. With more PMSCs employed on board, pirates will increasingly be met by highly trained, professionally armed forces ready to repel any attack.
Private Yacht Maritime Security provided by ATAC follow the link to learn more: https://atacglobal.com/private-yacht-security/