One of the biggest challenges facing professional captains aboard large yachts is how to manage the safety and security aboard their charge. Whilst the paperwork and procedures are in place under the ISM process, there remain difficult circumstances and locations for yacht operations.
The selection of security services providers is often a headache that the captain could very happily do without, notwithstanding the critical safety service they are there to deliver.
The example of yachts wanting to winter in the Indian Ocean has been fraught with the obvious dangers posed by the Somali piracy threat over the past six-plus years. The simplest solution to this has been the employment of private security companies (PMSCs) to ride through the risk areas armed with a selection of appropriate equipment to deter any unwanted attention. The difficulty for the captain, management company and owner has been how to select these service providers.
Whilst there are many to choose from, which are the ones to be trusted? How can you tell if they have the relevant experience, accreditations, and professionalism to safeguard your yacht? There has been a move within the PMSC industry to gain a range of accreditations and affiliations which allegedly prove that they are suitably qualified to provide the service.
However, the yacht industry is not the commercial shipping industry, which is where the majority of these companies ply their trade. Yachting, by its very nature, is an industry which aspires to work to certain standards and captains want to hire the service providers with the best quality service (although this is often tempered with financial restraint in an attempt to save money for the yacht’s owners).
Having a company with its affiliation to the industry standard bearer SAMI and having gained ISO9001 or indeed ISO28007 accreditation does not in itself guarantee quality and many PMSCs hide behind these.
Having the right knowledge and experience of working with yachts and their crews is surely of far greater importance than having a team of personnel aboard who have ridden aboard bulk or gas carriers, keeping watch fifteen metres above the waves on liner routes through the areas of risk.
Accreditations and affiliations in themselves are fine and at least show that certain safety management procedures should be followed. What many of these companies don’t typically have is the ability to provide yacht-appropriate route planning advice to the captain; real time risk assessments based on correct and current intelligence; the ability to safely and legally operate the tenders for embarkation as required; to know who is the most reputable bunkering agent in a given location; which agents to use; which marinas to berth in… and the list goes on. Do they employ the right people and personalities who have the ability to fit in and muck in with crew on the passage?
It is this level of due diligence and planning which captains require of their security company, and also the knowledge that they are dealing with yacht professionals, knowledgeable of their industry and their needs. There are few companies within the plethora of firms operating as PMSCs who have this knowledge and expertise and who can actually be trusted with such valuable assets.
Aside from the provision of appropriately equipped, trained and experienced individuals who provide a blanket of security whilst a yacht transits through or within a high risk region, are they able to provide the duty of care to the captain and crew and provide appropriate training to them?
Training through experience is designed to mitigate risk through enhanced understanding of security procedures, through improved situational awareness and through the education of what are often young crews.
A example of where this training is beneficial is in regards to the risks crews take when they make port and head into the town or resort in their time off. The development of their situational awareness is important, particularly in certain regions such as the Caribbean, where incidence of crime against the person is high.
This ability to train the crews in situational awareness is also invaluable to improving and safeguarding the overall security of the yacht.
As pointed out in some editorials recently, just as with crew agencies, whilst there are the professional organisations out there, there are also unfortunately a plethora of unprofessional, money-grabbing imitators preying on a captain’s desire to save money for his owner and without the means, experience and understanding of what a yacht actually requires.
Whilst it should be applauded that there is a move towards regulation within the maritime security industry, simply having the piece of paper is not nearly enough when you are offering a service to a personalised industry like yachting. The crucial thing is to provide the yacht captain with the level of service they expect, by the type of experienced professionals whom they would welcome aboard the yacht.
About the Author: James Kellett, Yacht – Safe Operations Director
James completed a 18 year career in the British Commando forces before entering the maritime security industry and quickly progressing through Team leader, consultant and senior project management to directorship. A founder member of Allmode and Allmode solutions, he oversees all aspects of business functionality whilst maintaining overarching responsibility for operational capability and delivery, business development and compliance along with customer relations, working closely with clients to understand their needs and provide the optimum solution. He blends extensive private and military service with considerable industry knowledge to provide the strategic vision for future growth within the company and wider security risk management industry.