Owners with sizeable investments in their vessels would be well-advised to engage in planning to help ensure the safety of family, guests, and crew, limit risk exposure, and to maximize the yachting experience.
Measures undertaken may vary depending on size of vessel, owner profile, and preferred cruising locations. For example, an owner with a high public profile in a "superyacht" sailing in offshore locations may face greater risk exposure than an owner with a relatively low profile in a smaller vessel who confines his activities to the immediate vicinity of Florida. This assessment should be closely tied to the insurance evaluation and may also include an inventory of valuables aboard the vessel, such as artwork or other collectibles.
The assessment should take note of preferred cruising locations and attempt to identify any potential risks, such as the threat of theft in a foreign port. Detailed site surveys are especially advisable for those traveling to a foreign destination for the first time, and even for owners familiar with a particular location, as threats change over time. A thorough survey should include an evaluation of available medical facilities, on-call doctors, as well as airport availability should the need arise for quick evacuation. The owner may also wish to engage an experienced security consultant to help establish contact with local law enforcement. This is a valuable strategy for learning about crime trends and the local environment, and helping to keep owners, their family members, guests, and crew safe while onshore.
Background checks are another valuable and cost-effective security tool. Pre-employment screening of all crew members is vitally important. These are the people who will be in day-to-day contact with family and guests. Just as at home, staff should be vetted for past criminal offenses and personal integrity. Too much is at stake to risk exposure to staff with questionable activity in their past.
Owners who assess their risk exposure to be higher may also wish to consider defensive tactics and security awareness training for crew members. This is a further step in the security planning process and will require the services of a specially trained consultant. This kind of training not only teaches crew members how to respond to threatening situations, but it also builds confidence and camaraderie among the crew, strengthening the teamwork needed to defuse a threat. Training should stress theft prevention steps and not leaving the vessel and its contents unnecessarily exposed to criminal predators.
Communications and emergency protocols are also keys to safe sailing. It is important to have redundant communications capabilities on board your vessel — radios, cell phones, and e-mail. Develop emergency contact lists for the intended destination, along with procedures to deal with a range of security contingencies. The owner and family members should be briefed on these procedures to raise awareness and help ensure the calmest response possible from all onboard under potentially challenging circumstances.
Michael Guidry is President of The Guidry Group, a global security consultancy based in Montgomery, Texas.
This article provides general information and recommendations that may apply to many different situations. Any recommendations described in this article are not intended to be specific to your unique situation. Consult with your staff and specialists to determine how and whether the information in this article might guide you in developing specific plans or procedures for your operations. This article does not substitute for legal advice, which should come from your own counsel.