No doubt, that when a superyacht pulls into a marina, it is bound to turn heads. That might lead you to believe that owners of luxury motor yachts, want to make a spectacle or draw attention. That could be true for a select few of the most egotistical of yacht owners, but for the most part, when a high net worth individual purchases a luxury yacht, they really do so to relax and get away from it all.
More often when a celebrity, or other well-known billionaire buys, or charters a superyacht, it is not to attract the paparazzi, but to run away as far out to sea as possible from them!
Perhaps this is why Tiger Woods named his luxury motor yacht, Privacy, and why Roman Abramovich’s 557ft Eclipse is rumored to be shielded with some top-secret “anti-paparazzi” technology. The device is said to beam an infrared light at digital cameras attempting to take pictures of the yacht or its guests, thus washing out any attempted photographs.
Not all yacht owners are likely able to afford that kind of counter measure, and more importantly, in this “digital age” of round-the-clock Facebook posts, and Instagram updates, detailing the minutiae of peoples’ everyday lives, what level of privacy should the owner of a superyacht expect to enjoy, and what can he or she do to ensure that they achieve it?
What Can a Yacht Owner Do to Protect Privacy?
When a luxurious superyacht cruises into any harbor, the first question she raises is, “I wonder who owns that?” Keeping the answer to that question as far out of reach of the general public as possible is one of the most effective ways for a yacht owner to ensure his or her privacy. That is why most owners of a luxury yacht will opt for setting up corporate ownership, or some other type of “entity” to own their yachts. There are high net worth yacht owners who consider several layers of ownership as a means to strengthen identity protection, such as a company owned by another company or a company owned by a trust. Owners should make it as difficult as legally possible, for the general public to discover the owner’s identity on a simple search.
Even when taking such measures, a yacht owner’s identity can be leaked out to the public. That is why it is also very important to have a well-trained crew, who have all signed non-disclosure, or confidentiality agreements.
Other Security Concerns
Obviously, in our digital age, right to privacy is not the only security concern of luxury motor yacht owners.
Yacht owners are by their very nature high net worth individuals, and this makes them a natural target to hackers and cybercriminals. Your yacht is highly dependent on digital equipment and networks. These systems can be hacked, putting your vessel and passengers at risk.
To prove this point, in 2013 a group of marine security professionals, demonstrated how easily they could take over the navigation system of a superyacht underway in the Mediterranean Sea by “spoofing” its GPS guidance signal. The captain and crew had no idea what was going on, as control of the vessel was taken from right under their noses!
It is not only compromising your yacht’s operational systems that you need to worry about. There can be all sorts of sensitive data on board your yacht’s computers that cyber-crooks would just love to get their hands on. Many, if not all yacht owners, do personal and professional business while onboard, and that kind of data is ripe for the picking by hackers!
What Can You Do to Protect Your Yacht from Cybercrime?
Generally speaking, ransomware and malware types of attacks can be prevented by keeping a good up-to-date antivirus on all on-board computers. Be aware of any computers that your guests tie into your yacht’s Wi-Fi system. Once a guest is on your network, any vulnerabilities in his or her computer, opens a door to your entire onboard network. Instruct all computer users onboard not to open any unknown or suspicious looking emails.
Protecting the onboard systems from hackers and data breaches is a bit more complex, and probably will require some professional IT advice to make sure you have proper countermeasures in place. However some basic steps you can take include:
- Making sure crew and guests only have access to the systems that are necessary
- Give crew members individual passwords to the onboard systems, so you can always be sure who accessed the system and when
- Be sure any and all “sensitive data” is stored only on the vessel’s hard drives and not on the network
- Block websites that are known common malware points of entry
- Limit use of bill pay, online banking, and similar activities onboard
- Do not let any guests plug external hard drives, or any USB devices into your network without your knowledge and clearance by your captain
- Inform all onboard about prudent use of social media. Instruct them not to post information about who is on board, where you are bound, etc. Avoid saying anything that can make your boat, or your passengers a target!
Theft and Piracy
Finally, of course you have to protect your yacht from the very real possibilities of physical threat. You might think the chances of someone stealing and getting away with a 70 foot or larger motor yacht are pretty slim. Think again! It does happen, and more often than you might think!
Recently, right here in South Florida, the luxury yacht Change in Latitude, was stolen from her berth in Dania Beach, and yet another on Miami Beach, that one resulting in a crash and damage to the marina.
In fact, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Florida leads the nation in boat theft. True, most of those boats are 40ft and under. Such boats can easily be taken from where they are moored, or more often they are on trailers, making them a tempting target to “hitch and heist”. The actual theft of a full size luxury yacht is still a relatively rare occurrence, however, luxury yachts remain targets, if only for their tenders, “water toys” such as jet skis, and other valuables they may have on board.
Securing Your Vessel
Keeping your yacht and its accessories safe, is a lot like protecting your home. That means taking steps to make your boat a less attractive target. Security experts say to keep in mind three things: Time, Noise, and Visibility.
- Time – The more you can do to make it take a lot of time for a thief to steal, or break into your yacht – the safer it will be.
- Noise – The more noise that will be made if it is broken into – the safer it will be.
- Visibility – The more visible you can make your boat – the safer it will be.
Basically, criminals look for vulnerability and opportunity. The less vulnerable you can make your yacht, the less attractive it will be to thieves.
Here are some specific tips on how to do so:
Have an Alarm System – Again, much like you protect your home, having an alarm system for you motor yacht is a good investment. Choose a system and an alarm company that is reliable, and known for maritime expertise. Make sure all hatches, decks and gunwales are covered. Try to get a system that is triggered when someone first climbs aboard, and not one that waits until he or she tries to, or does enter the cabin. Also be sure the alarm system comes with motion sensor lights. Motion sensor lights are a great deterrent.
Choose your Marina Carefully – Most luxury yachts will be docked at a Marina, and you may think this automatically means they are safe. Not necessarily. You want to choose your marina carefully. It goes without saying that it should be well-lit and have full time security. Also, make sure the staff at the marina is familiar with the ways you use your yacht. This way, they can be aware of any unusual activities. Working with a Yacht Management company is a good way to make sure you have access to safe and secure dockage.
Other Safety Tips – If you do moor your yacht at your residence’s personal dock, be sure you do not leave the keys anywhere on the boat. If you have a tender, and/or personal watercraft, try to pull them up onto the deck, instead of leaving them in the water. If you have to leave them in the water, be sure they are securely locked to the primary boat.
Finally, wherever your yacht is moored, minimize the number of valuables you keep on board, such as electronics and dive or fishing gear, and do not leave any important registration or ownership documents on board.
Better Safe Than Sorry
The bottom line is, any luxury yacht can be a target for prying eyes, at least, or criminals at worst. That doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid, or let that fact take away from the fun of yacht ownership. All it takes is a few simple precautions and some common sense measures to put your boat less at risk.
Operating a motor yacht can be costly. You can reduce your expenses, and avoid costly repairs by keeping her well maintained. On Demand yachting from FYM can help. If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Yacht Management specialists, or call us at (954) 900-9968.