Battening the hatches against a crime wave.
He was aboard a fancy motor yacht that lay at anchor about a mile off the island of Barbuda, near Antigua, in the Caribbean. It was 2:00 a.m. His mate, the fellow who had proposed this venture, crouched beside him jimmying the lock on the flimsy door that would allow them entry into the yacht's interior. The stolen inflatable dinghy in which they had come was tied to the swim platform at the stern of the boat. After the murders, they would use it to get away, and then they would sink it, leaving no trace of their escape.
Revenge, not robbery, was their motive. He did not know precisely why his friend wanted to kill the Americans, but there could be any number of reasons. Perhaps his friend had been insulted by one or both Yanks in the marketplace. Maybe he had tried to get a job on board and had been rebuffed. It might be that he just didn't like Americans in expensive yachts.
The above fictionalized account represents one possible scenario for the still unsolved January 28, 1994, murder of an American couple and their two British crew members. The incident is indicative of the often ignored security risks that face yachtsmen on the seas. As reported by the February 3 Miami Herald, the American couple had chartered a 65-foot yacht, the Challenger, for one week. On Thursday, they anchored near Barbuda. The four victims, William and Kathleen Clever from California and Ian Cridland and Thomas Williams from the United Kingdom, were discovered bound and gagged, and seemed to have been tortured to death. They all had multiple stab wounds. Robbery did not appear to be a motive.
Yacht security is very much a part of the burgeoning field of maritime security. Although the term maritime security usually evokes concerns over the safety of seaports and cruise ships, and to a lesser degree, offshore oil installations, hundreds of multimillion-dollar yachts cruise the world's oceans at risk to various types of criminal activity. These yachts range in size from around sixty feet in length to over 200, and the largest can cost up to $50 million or more. In most cases, owners have given little, if any, thought to their vessel's security or the protection of friends, family, and employees they may carry.
This is a case study of one such yacht. Her name, description, and location have been changed for the protection of all concerned. The security lessons, however, remain valid.
A new motor yacht, Linda's Dream, was in the final stages of construction by a well-known European mega yacht builder. When finished, she would be one of the world's largest and most lavishly appointed yachts, measuring 210 feet in length. Accommodations would be available for her owner, eight guests, and twenty seamen, cooks, and stewardesses. She would cost in excess of $60 million, when the corporation took delivery.
The corporation was owned by one individual who would use the yacht most of the time for his own personal enjoyment. The owner's net worth was several billion dollars.
The security director was concerned about the yacht's ability to be made secure but had virtually no idea how to go about ascertaining her capabilities for fending off any potential attacks while docked or at sea. Linda's Dream could easily become a nightmare for the owner without the implementation of proper security procedures.
Proper security measures can vary markedly from one situation to another, but in all instances their purpose is to perform two primary functions. First, they must be able to provide sufficient warning of an impending threat, intrusion, or attack. Second, they must make it possible to effectively respond to that warning.
A number of factors affect the degree and type of security a yacht may require. These factors do not remain static, and as they change, so will the yacht's security needs. The security that is developed for a yacht in one location under certain circumstances may not be effective for some other yacht, somewhere else, under other circumstances.
Some of the security factors that must be considered are the yacht's size, the number of people who will be aboard her and their respective backgrounds and experience, her location, the type of equipment carried on board, the economic and political situations of the areas in which she will operate, recent criminal activity in those areas, the proximity and nature of external support, and the capabilities of any potential attackers.
In order to actively plan for security contingencies, the question must be asked how and under what circumstances can the yacht expect to be attacked, stolen, vandalized, sabotaged, or hijacked. These questions, and numerous others can be answered by conducting a proper security survey of the vessel.
Security survey. A yacht security survey forms the foundation for the preparation of a yacht security plan. The security plan, once implemented and maintained, should provide for the safety and security of the yacht in any situation.
An initial survey should have been performed long before the impending delivery date. In fact, a yacht security expert should have been consulted while the vessel was still being designed by the naval architects. Since neither had occurred, a security survey needed to be performed as soon as possible. This advice went unheeded, and the survey was ultimately conducted only after the yacht had been delivered, crewed, provisioned, and operated for about six months.
The purpose of the yacht security survey is to ascertain the nature and measure of all foreseeable security threats. The survey should cover both the physical and operational aspects of the yacht, and it should be organized and conducted to allow a thorough analysis of all the yacht's security weaknesses. This is a time consuming and often exhausting exercise. It is essential, therefore, that the person conducting the survey utilize a logically organized and detailed procedure for performing it. This is best accomplished through the use of a form or checklist, such as the one in my book, Yacht Security Manual (Marsec Publishing Company).
Construction material. The survey began with an inspection of the yacht's physical characteristics. Her hull was constructed of steel, but her superstructure was aluminum which is not uncommon with larger motor yachts. The construction material used in the hull, superstructure, and decks is important information, as is the vessel's freeboard (roughly the height of the main deck above the water line) at various locations, when one begins to consider options for repelling boarders and fighting intruders. For instance, it would be nice to know whether the bulwark that security personnel would use as cover during a fire fight, is made of something capable of stopping bullets.
A yacht owner who really desires to prepare himself for a gun battle might measure the thicknesses of the hull and superstructure in various places throughout the yacht to determine their potential bullet-stopping ability. Armed with this information, certain areas might be reinforced with additional steel, aluminum, fiberglass, or Kevlar (the substance used in items such as bulletproof vests).
Access points. Probably the single most important physical security information one can obtain about a yacht concerns the access to her interior. All doors, hatches, companionways, scuttles, ports, or any other hole in the yacht's hull or superstructure through which an intruder might gain access to the interior should be examined. Not only is the location and type of access important, but also its size, the material from which it is constructed, and how it can be secured.
Most yacht doors, for instance, even aboard mega yachts like Linda's Dream, are made of wood and glass. They should be constructed of steel or aluminum, and be reinforced appropriately. Linda's Dream had some fourteen teak and glass doors that allowed entry from three different levels on board. One door even allowed direct access to the owner's suite by way of a private stairway from the Saloon Deck (one deck above the main level). All of these doors had simple latching mechanisms that could be easily defeated.
Any kidnapper could obtain plans to the vessel, which were published in several yachting magazines, and determine the precise location of the owner's suite and how best to get there. Linda's Dream had a total of ninety-eight ways an intruder could gain entry.
Existing defenses. Once all the access points are noted and analyzed, the yacht's existing security measures should be considered. Most yachts have virtually no security measures. At best, smaller yachts might have a flimsy companionway door lock, and larger yachts might be outfitted with a closed circuit television surveillance system. Other security measures include intrusion detection systems, firearms, and firearm substitutes.
Linda's Dream had no firearms on board at the time of the survey, but she was prepared to carry one .458 cal. magnum, bolt-action hunting rifle, one 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and one .380 cal. semi-automatic pistol. These, even if carried, were totally inadequate for the security of the vessel.
More important than a yacht's physical security capabilities are her operational security procedures. Operational security includes such items as where she is berthed, what cruising routes she follows, and what ports-of-call she visits. Also relevant is how crew members are hired, whether they are properly screened before being employed, what types of underway and dockside security watches are maintained, how repairmen and other workers are handled, and what security training guests and crew members receive.
While the survey was being conducted, the yacht lay at anchor approximately 200 yards offshore. No anchor, lookout, or security watches were posted. This condition persisted throughout all hours of the day and night. Furthermore, even though the nearby town was known for its petty thievery, no deck watches were maintained at night.
Apart from the other criminal possibilities that come to mind, the fact that the yacht carried numerous valuable works of art that were easily accessible through any number of doors or windows ought to have caused some concern among the yacht's underwriters, if not the crew. The vessel's captain argued that he was understaffed, and that he simply did not have the manpower to stand nighttime security watches.
The yacht had implemented what was termed sunset procedures. This required at least two of the yacht's officers to be on board at any given time after sunset. The exterior lights, which were inadequate for security purposes, were turned on and the colors were retired. At midnight, all exterior doors were locked.
Security plan. Linda's Dream had no security plan, and this was probably the greatest security shortfall of all. Of course, without a security survey, preparing a security plan would be difficult. Some of the items that needed to be addressed included provisions for physical modifications to the yacht, weapons, crew security indoctrination and training, hiring procedures, standard operating procedures (SOPs) when underway, in-port security watch standing, security drills, bomb threat procedures, inspection of all supplies and provisions, handling of visitors, cruise planning, and underwater hull inspections and other anti-drug smuggling measures.
The completed security survey report was sixty-five pages and contained forty-two recommendations. Most of these were not followed. This was not at all unusual, since most mega yacht owners are loathe to turn their boats into what they perceive to be floating fortresses. Many of the recommendations also required vessel modifications by professional shipwrights, something that is seldom convenient or inexpensive. However, the owner did decide to take the next step in the security process and have a security plan devised for the yacht.
It is important to keep in mind the purposes for developing a security plan. They include the following:
* To prevent unauthorized access to the yacht at all times
* To prevent the theft of the yacht, her equipment, furnishings, or supplies
* To prevent unauthorized weapons or other dangerous devices from being brought on board
* To prevent anyone from bringing illegal drugs or other contraband on board, and to prevent the occurrence of any other drug-related activity
There are a number of security criteria that must be carefully weighed and analyzed as a yacht's security plan is prepared. They form the framework within which the owner will develop, maintain, or modify his vessel's security program. These criteria include the following:
* The yacht's vulnerability to potential security hazards
* The effect any security measures may have on the yacht's operation
* The practical limitations imposed by the physical characteristics of the yacht
* How much money the owner can afford to devote to security
* The risks facing the yacht
* The alternative security measures available
* The security capabilities of any available external resources
As with security surveys, security plans can best be developed by using a standardized form, or at least a checklist, that includes both operational and physical aspects of the yacht's complete security requirements. Although the form may be only a few pages in length, the actual plan, once written, may be considerably longer. The security plan developed for Linda's Dream was forty-five pages long, but it was based upon a six-page form.
Implementation. Once a security plan has been prepared for a yacht, it must be implemented. The purpose of conducting a survey and preparing a plan is to provide effective security for the vessel. That requires following the security procedures contained in a properly prepared security plan. Implementation may take many forms. It may include making structural modifications to the yacht, installing topside security lighting, developing standard security procedures, and conducting extensive security training for the crew.
One of the first things the owner of Linda's Dream did was to commission a two-week security indoctrination for the crew aboard the vessel. Normally, such training would be conducted both ashore and afloat, but the yacht's sailing schedule only allowed for training while underway.
The problem with training while underway is that someone is always on watch. Thus, at least two training sessions for each subject must be scheduled. Even then, the instructor is usually faced with tired crew members who have just come off watch and need to sleep or who will soon be going on watch and would otherwise be sleeping. Neither is conducive to creating alert and motivated students, and the instructor must keep classes lively and interesting to succeed in conveying the lesson.
Although the crew was trained, the owner never implemented the other security recommendations. That type of owner resistance to extensive physical security is not uncommon among today's yachting community. Attitudes may have to change, however, as the seas become less secure.
Sailing into Troubled Waters?
THE FOLLOWING fictional example is offered as an illustration of the concerns all yacht owners and operators should have. Jim Davis, the captain of the private yacht Oceanus, is a happy man as he stands on the bridge of his domain and contemplates the view from her pilothouse windows. All 130 feet of gleaming white, ocean-going motor yacht is his to command, and even though his professional qualifications are exceptional, Davis still finds it difficult to believe that he was hired six months ago to be the master of this breathtalking vessel.
He answers only to the owner, a one-time Texas oil man who is now a semi-retired exporter of heavy construction and oil field equipment. The owner has not been on board for more than three months, and during that time Davis has driven himself and his crew of nine mercilessly in order to prepare for this moment. Today, Oceanus is scheduled to depart her home port of Houston, Texas, for an extended cruise throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Atlantic coastal waters of Central and South America.
It is to be a leisurely cruise with few schedules and an abundance of sun and relaxation. The owner and his party are due to arrive at any minute and Davis is anxious to show off the yacht with its starched-and-polished crew. There is no doubt in his mind that everything is in order, from the spotless decks and perfectly varnished brass to the immaculate and lavishly appointed accommodations. The engines and generators have been carefully maintained and finely tuned. Gourmet foods, wines, and liqueurs have been stowed by the pallet-load. Water and fuel tanks have been topped off, communications and navigation systems inspected and tested, and everything that can be done to prepare the vessel for her departure has been completed. At least, this is what Davis believes.
Unfortunately, he is wrong. Security aboard the Oceanus has been virtually ignored. Not even cursory background investigations were made of the crew members, many of whom were already in place before Davis was hired. Physical security measures such as deck and over-the-side lighting, intrusion detection systems, and electronic surveillance equipment have not been installed or even contemplated. No firearms of any kind are on board, except for Davis' personal revolver, which is locked in his desk in his cabin. In planning the cruise, no consideration was given from a security standpoint as to the intended ports-of-call. No float plan, which would include the route and estimated time of arrival, has been filed with the Coast Guard or anyone else. Neither the yacht's crew nor her guests have received any security or awareness training. A security plan has not been prepared for the yacht, and no bodyguards or other professional security personnel are on board.
The yacht, like the beautiful people who will soon be aboard her, exudes affluence. She is worth $20 million alone, but shortly her safe will also contain copious amounts of cash and jewelry. The women who will be making this cruise are accustomed to attracting attention wherever they go. The owner is an international businessman of considerable repute and is known for the company he keeps and the money he spends. Oceanus is consequently a beacon that has the potential of attracting every thief, pirate, rapist, kidnapper, extortionist, and terrorist who comes within miles of her like nectar attracts bees; and Captain Davis, experienced seaman that he is, cannot prevent any of them from swarming.
The problems potentially faced by the crew of the fictional Oceanus can be avoided. By conducting a security survey and developing a security plan, even the most luxurious of yachts can sail more safely.
Kenneth Gale Hawkes is vice president of maritime security for The Wackenhut Corporation in Coral Gables, Florida. He is a member of ASIS and currently serves on the Maritime Security Committee.
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|Title Annotation:||includes related article; maritime security|
|Author:||Hawkes, Kenneth Gale|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1994|
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