Superyacht Security: The 10 Best Ways To Protect From Pirates And Paparazzi (2023)

An armed Somali pirate along the coastline while the Greek cargo ship, MV Filitsa, is seen anchored... [+] just off the shores of Hobyo town in northeastern Somalia.

Getty Images

I have been fortunate to have experienced some of the very best superyachts in the world. Days spent drinking champagne while moored off tranquil Mediterranean coves, evenings spent traversing Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas, and waking up to the most amazing ports from Positano to La Paz.

Bonding with the captains and crew is always one of the highlights of yachting and I am constantly amazed at the new technologies and amenities added for comfort and safety. On one particular voyage, I was a bit apprehensive about some of the places we would anchor at every night. Small villages filled with inquiring eyes; large groups of natives would greet us when we disembarked to explore. It wasn’t until a month after I returned home that I heard about armed pirates boarding a similar boat, pistol whipping the captain and stealing the guest’s passports and money.

We are, after all displaying massive amounts of wealth floating to remote areas in these extravagant vessels with cocktails in hand, and it would only become a matter of time before enterprising and often desperately poor natives would take advantage. Such is the case currently in Venezuela and Trinidad, two areas previously safe to yachts but now on the red alert watch list as piracy is increasing dramatically.

Yacht TANIT attacked by Somali Pirates resulting in the death of the Captain

Getty / French Ministry of Defense

The shipping industry is continuing its fight against pirates with The International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center detailing that 27 vessels were boarded, seven vessels were fired upon and four attempted attacks occurred in the first quarter of 2019.

Thus, my fascination with security and how superyachts are finding new ways to protect their assets, crew, and guests. I spoke with numerous yacht owners and experts about how they are spending millions setting up their mega yachts with military-style technology while training their crews to avoid conflicts.

(Video) ALL TIME BEST Somali Pirates VS Ship Security Compilation HD 2017

From secret escape pods and hidden armed panic rooms to the best non-lethal weapons, these are the top 10 products now being used to deter pirates as well as unwelcome guests:

1. Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)

The Long Range Acoustic Device is a non-lethal anti-piracy device which uses pain inducing sound beams to drive away invaders. The sonic weapon produces a high-pitched noise that is higher than the tolerance level of an average human being. LRAD has been previously used only on cargo and cruise ships until now being integrated on megayachts.

LRAD, a long-range directable audio-broadcasting device. Credit: Getty Images

Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

2.Underwater Sonar Detection Systems

Sonardyne Sentinel diver detection sonar detects, tracks and identifies divers and underwater vehicles approaching asuperyacht from any direction and alerts security personnel to the threat. The device has the ability to identify targets at ranges of up to 1,200 meters. Sentinel is small and lightweight and is quick to deploy from a boat, install in a port or fix along a coastline giving yachts an instant underwater security shield. Sonobuoy alsooffers a similarDDS-03 Diver Detection System but is used primarily by the Navy.

Sonobuoys underwater detection system

(Video) Do SuperYachts Carry Firearms? - Gun Talk!

3. Anti Drone Protection

Using a superyacht drone detection & defeat system, the anti-drone device detects and identifies commercial drones within a 20+km range, providing GPS positioning of both drone & pilot together with the drone’s speed & heading. Once a real drone threat has been established, the system enables a 500m+ electronic ‘exclusion zone’ to be created around the yacht. Should the drone approach this exclusion zone, its control/video signal will be blocked, initiating its fail-safe mode forcing it to land or return to its operator.Sparrowhawk offers up an autonomous anti-drone device that is designed to capture, and recover intact, a roguedrone and its payload safely.

Sparrowhawk Drone Capture


5. Cloaking System

The GOST Cloak system is designed to provide protection in the limited time between the alarm's activation and the response team's arrival at the scene. The Cloak mist fills the intended area with an impenetrable cloud of smoke that confuses the intruder and forces them to retreat until help arrives. The organic smoke is created by a special glycol solution and reduces visibility to less than one foot.

Life-pod concept design for emergency escape capsules

Edwin Vandermark

6. Citadel Armored Escape Room and Escape Pods

Hidden Citadel rooms are increasing in popularity in many existing and new build superyachts. They are equipped with their own ventilation systems, water, and food supplies and communications. Developers are also attempting to create a Life-Pod emergency escape pod that features high impact resistant pods with temperature control, global positioning system, watertight, fire barrier control, and air purification.

7. Exterior lockdown system

(Video) Hacking a yacht is too easy

MAST offers maritime security systems and services including locks and sensors for total lockdown used on many yachts. The company also provides crew vetting as well as security teams that travel with youon your journey. Ben Stewart, Maritime Director for MAST tells me "Our approach is to use fairly simple/reliable technology and couple it with people that can actually respond to a detected threat."

Throwbot 2 robotic detectiion


8. Robots for Surveillance

The Throwbot®2 is a throwable micro-robot that enables operators to obtain instant video and audio surveillance indoor and outdoor. Helpful for anti-pirate operations where a remote-controlled, robot-mounted video will be able to safely board a ship and send back footage. Low light isn’t a problem either as the Throwbot has infrared illuminators to see in total darkness. Also in development fromseveral builders are robotic skiffs thatwill be used tobe sent out to distress calls which are often atactic used by pirates to lure targets.

9.Propeller Entanglement System

The Running Gear Entanglement System is a compressed air launched net made from spectra rope with weighted loops. The weighted loops help stop propeller propulsion of the vessels by entangling the propeller.

Helios lightweight Dazzle gun

B.E. Meyers

10. Dazzle Gun

Dazzle gun is a type of laser weapon which uses green light to disorient and temporarily blind the pirates. The concentrated blast of green light can be used during both day and night.The GLARE HELIOS is an FDA approved non-lethal visual disruption laser (dazzler), perfect for yachts and maritime use. When a suspect individual approaches a restricted area, the eye safe laser is able to hail and warn them before shots have to be fired. The gun also has a red dot laser for aiming during daytime use.

More aggressive techniques which are not legal on many private yachts include a Pain Ray (Electromagnetic wave)non-lethal weapon which transmits a narrow beam of electromagnetic energy to heat the skin without causing permanent damage. The wave penetrates beneath the skin which causes an unbearable burning sensation, forcing pirates to run away or jump overboard. And, stun grenades, rubber ball grenades, and anti-missile defense systems which are not commonly used.

(Video) The Problems with SuperYachts Carrying Firearms...

MARSS surveillance products and services


I spoke withJohannes Pinl, the CEO of MARSS in charge ofdeveloping maritime asset protection and saving life using special sensor long range surveillance in the air, on the surface and below yachts. He explained the increased desire from superyacht clients in adding extreme protection for their voyages

Tell me about what superyacht owners are requesting for security on their boats.

Johannes Pinl: "Owners want to know what is going on onboard and around their yacht. As such, clients are requesting security systems that can automatically monitor, detect, track, classify and alert operators to approaching objects in the vicinity of a yacht. This can refer to drones, small fast moving boats and even underwater for divers and mini-submarines. However, vessel security is not just concerned with detecting unknown objects, but also keeping track of a yacht's own assets and personnel, for example, tenders, jet-skis, and guests such as family members ashore or doing watersports.

Generally, the capability of a security system will depend on the profile of the client, the asset in question and the locations where it is likely to be operating. The key is building awareness around a vessel to increase reaction time and for crew or security teams to make better-informed decisions based on a clear appraisal of a situation.

Advances in technology have meant that a more complete situational awareness picture can be created that provides a 360 perimeter security bubble around a vessel. This is achieved by linking hardware and sensors such as radars, sonars, cameras, searchlights, monitoring and tracking devices with software that is able to intelligently asses approaches as potential threats and filter out false alarms."

Are there are new revolutionary projects being introduced to protect yacht owners?

"Drone detection is becoming more of an issue, mainly from a protection of privacy point of view for yachts but also where there are helicopter operations around a vessel. The technology related to drones themselves and also detecting them is changing fast, and much faster than the regulatory environment. While it may be technically possible to interfere or jam drones, legally this remains a gray area in many jurisdictions very much. As such, the best form of defense against drones from a yachting perspective is early detection and early warning. The conditions and environment associated with vessels make this particularly challenging as it is tough to detect a small, fast-moving object against a moving background using sensors mounted on a moving platform.

Man-overboard and climber detection sensors that utilize micro-radars and cameras within a self-contained ‘pod' have been developed to monitor areas around a vessel and detect humans falling over the side or threats trying to board by climbing up the sides. Security relevant information can now be presented via head-mounted glasses, essentially an augmented reality lawyer overlaid on an operators field of view."

What security devices are the most popular in the market right now being used by superyachts?

"Onboard CCTV, access control (door locking systems) and deck mounted pressure sensors will likely form the basis of most standard superyacht security packages. These will be connected over an onboard network and managed from the bridge or a central control security room.

Long-range daylight and thermal imaging cameras can have a dual function for both navigation and security use cases. Such cameras can be equivalent to military specification and are mounted on the mast to provide a long distance visual capability around a vessel.

Non-harming 'countermeasures' such as searchlights, loudhailers, and laser-pointers can be used to de-escalate threatening situations by communicating to approaching objects thus removing the element of surprise. Tracking devices that provide a regular update of a particular asset location such as tenders and jet-skis or guests and crew are popular requests, especially for expedition style vessels that travel to more remote locations."

(Video) Protecting against maritime cyber threats | BCS Wolverhampton Branch


How do yachts protect themselves from pirates? ›

They lock themselves in, summon help and head for shore.” Armoring a yacht can cost from $400,000 to $600,000, depending on the yacht's size and details. Protected areas include the roof, the door and upgraded glass rated to bulletproof VPAM Level 6, able to withstand repeated rounds from an AK-47.

Do superyachts get attacked by pirates? ›

Yachts are intrinsically more vulnerable to pirate attacks, so it's important to know the most susceptible areas on board and how to protect them. "A yacht has always been inherently more vulnerable than a commercial ship due to its relatively low freeboard and perceived high value," Phil Cable of MAST says.

Can you keep a gun on your yacht? ›

In international waters, defined as at least 24 miles away from any coast, the ship is bound by the laws of the country of registry and therefor the flag it is flying. In other words if you are on the open ocean, flying a US Flag, you can have any firearm on board that is legal under federal law.

What is the most effective method of ship protection? ›

A proper, visible lookout is the most effective method of ship protection. It can help identify a suspicious approach or attack early on, allows defences to be deployed and, can serve as an effective deterrent to would-be attackers.

What is the safest yacht in the world? ›

The Kraken 50, billed as the 'safest blue water yacht in build today,' has been launched. Unlike all her contemporaries, the K50 has the unique 'Zero Keel' construction: An all-in-one hull and keel with scantlings to match.
Privacy Overview.
sSkJTNOK_FUWR1 dayNo description
9 more rows
10 Apr 2019

Can cargo ships defend against pirates? ›

Merchant ships now plying in high piracy affected areas such as Gulf of Aden (GOA) carry Armed Guards along with a series of non-lethal weaponry to thwart any kind of piracy attempt. Mentioned herein is a list of non-lethal anti-piracy weapons that are used or can be used to fight piracy at high seas.

Do cargo ships have guns for pirates? ›

Background – Merchant Ships Have Historically Been Armed

Weapons were used by the crew to defend the ship and crew against attacks by pirates, privateers and enemy warships.

What kind of security do super yachts have? ›

"Onboard CCTV, access control (door locking systems) and deck mounted pressure sensors will likely form the basis of most standard superyacht security packages. These will be connected over an onboard network and managed from the bridge or a central control security room.

How do I stop my yacht being stolen? ›

Boat Security

There are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of vessel theft. Security devices installed on boats should be resistant to water, salt and humidity. Locks - Marine dealers carry special exterior hatch locks. When fastened with a quality padlock, one of these improves security.

What is the barefoot rule on a yacht? ›

The Barefoot Rule – When boarding the yacht, the first order of business is honoring the barefoot rule. It applies on most yachts, no shoes inside the cabin, and in many cases, no shoes on deck, either. If applicable, the crew will provide a basket at the gangway's end or at the main salon entrance for your shoes.

Can you drop anchor in the middle of the ocean? ›

Can you drop anchor in the middle of the ocean? The answer to that is 'no'. Anchoring in the middle of the ocean is not possible due to the depth. In order to maintain good holding, you want at least 7 times more line out than there is water underneath your boat.

What are the 3 types of anchors? ›

Modern anchor designs that are extremely stable and able to easily grip on to surfaces are generally derived from three standard designs that have been used from the 10th century onwards. These are the – Fluked, Admiralty and Stockless anchor designs that are often still in use for small crafts and lightweight boats.

How heavy is an anchor on a super yacht? ›

Anchor Weight Guide
Boat SizeAnchor Weight
Length (ft)Weight (lb)Bruce (lb)
20 – 252,5004.4
26 – 305,00011
31 – 3510,00011/16.5
4 more rows

Can I anchor my yacht anywhere? ›

You can anchor your boat anywhere if you have an anchor cable (known as an anchor rode) that's long enough. To figure out how long your anchor rode should be, multiply the deepest water you might anchor in by eight. Many modern motor yachts come with built-in anchoring systems.

Can you legally live on a yacht? ›

Most marinas require an application for you to move aboard permanently. In some areas, liveaboards aren't permitted or there are long waiting lists. Liveaboard slip fees are usually higher and your insurance rates may increase if your boat becomes your primary residence.

How long could you survive on a yacht? ›

A fully stocked, seaworthy 30-foot sailing yacht will sail about 100 nautical miles in a day, and she can continue up to 90 days without needing to stop. Given the right wind conditions, a sailing yacht in good shape can sail around the clock at a steady pace of about 5 knots per hour.

What is the best Defence against the pirates? ›

The best defense against a pirate attack is evasion -- it's easier to keep pirates from boarding than to force them to leave. Upon detecting the approach of pirates, a crew should: Call for help and warn other ships in the area. Take evasive action and attempt to out-maneuver the attackers.

What is the single most efficient anti piracy technique? ›

Water hoses are the most commonly used anti-piracy weapon and are certainly one of the simplest and cheapest solutions available. By targeting attackers with water hoses, crews can make boarding a ship impossible by creating slippery surfaces or pushing pirates from their boats.

Where do pirate attacks occur? ›

Nowadays, most pirate attacks are committed in the Gulf of Guinea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. In the last five years, between 36 and 48 attacks were carried out annually against ships in the Nigerian waters, and between 26 and 49 piracy attacks were committed in the Indonesian waters in the same period.

Can a superyacht sink? ›

A superyacht sank off the southern coast of Italy over the weekend of Aug. 20 in a spectacular capsizing captured on video and shared on Twitter by the Italian coast guard. The video compilation shows the My Saga, a roughly 130-foot boat, struggling against the waves before slowly sinking into the water.

Can super yachts cross the ocean? ›

Many luxury mega yachts and superyachts can cross the ocean but not all vessels are equipped or built to do so. It is a distance of around 3,000 nautical miles. If the yacht does not have this range, there are other options for shipping the yacht across the ocean on a cargo boat or large container ship.

Which country owns the most super yachts? ›

The recent seizure of superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs — like Andrey Melnichenko's $585 million SY A — has put the massive vessels in the public's eye.
  • Countries with the most superyachts.
  • U.S. 23%
  • U.K. 6%
  • Russia 9%
  • Greece 6%
  • Italy 5%
23 Mar 2022

Do ships have security against pirates? ›

Although experts usually advice against armed guards or weapons aboard passenger ships, they acknowledge that to protect more than 2,000 passengers, cruise ships employ security to deter hijackers. “Armed guards are used by some companies usually to reassure the passengers that they have armed protection onboard.”

Can you shoot pirates in international waters? ›

Yes. Hostile non-state combatants are not covered by Geneva convention, and they can be treated like common criminals. Since oceans are international territory, the law of the vessel to be boarded is applied.

Has a pirate ever attacked a cruise ship? ›

Seabourn Spirit, a luxury cruise ship carrying 210 crew members and passengers, was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Riding in two small speedboats, the pirates fired at the ship with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, but the crew drove them off with a water hose and a long range acoustic device.

What type of ships do pirates target? ›

In 2021, the type of ship most attacked by pirates was a bulk carrier. That year, there were 47 attacks on bulk carriers recorded. Product tankers were targeted by pirates 20 times and container ships 30 times.

Who protects ships from pirates? ›

One of the physical security options is to employ the services of privately contracted security teams: Private maritime security companies (PMSC): Private contractors employed to provide security personnel, both armed and unarmed, on board for protection against piracy.

How do ships fight off pirates? ›

Most merchant ships either avoid the known pirate areas, use water hoses, or have armed security on board. There are also armed escort ships that travel the pirate shipping areas.

How much do you get paid to be a captain on a super yacht? ›

Typically, a superyacht crew salary starts from €2,000 a month for Deckhands and Stewardesses, rising to €4,000+ for more senior roles. A Captain can make €10,000+ per month, depending on the size of the Superyacht!

How much does a super yacht captain make a year? ›

According to data from the 2021 Salary Survey, captains working on vessels between 60- and 99-feet were earning an average of $8,002.01 per month, with a range of $3,105 to $20,000 per month. The average monthly tips earned by captains on yachts available for charter in this range was $1,374.

Why do billionaires buy super yachts? ›

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, fellow tech billionaires, are rumoured to have yachts. "These are very private assets and one of the reasons they're bought is for privacy," says Tucker. The privacy also offers security protections, not an insignificant consideration for the richest people in the world.

What is a jammer on a yacht? ›

A cleat, clutch or jammer is the vital bit of deck hardware that stops your line or rope running away. From jamming a halyard to tieing off a mooring line, fender or dinghy the cleat clutch or jammer need to hold firm and fast.

Do yachts ever get stolen? ›

The idea of a large scale luxury motor yacht being stolen, may seem like a remote possibility. After all, there aren't too many places a yacht thief could get away to and not be noticed! However, believe it or not, it does happen.

What will happens to seized yachts? ›

“When a yacht is seized while in a yard, the owner will remain liable for the maintenance costs,” Maltby said. “But if the owner is unable to pay, the yard is left in a difficult position.” The situation remains unclear for the shipyards and marinas docking the yachts.

What does the black ball mean on a yacht? ›

Day signal, black ball

Day shapes are mast head signals visually indicating the status of a vessel to other vessels on navigable waters during daylight hours. The equipment is required on board by International Regulation for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972.

Why are yachts limited to 12 guests? ›

Smaller yachts may carry only six people, but even many superyachts are capped at 12 passengers due to the SOLAS Convention (Safety of Life at Sea) set forth by the International Maritime Organization. (Interestingly, the first version of the treaty was adopted in 1914 in response to the sinking of the Titanic.)

Can you wear jeans on a yacht? ›

Yacht Club Wear – Do Nots

While yacht club attire can vary by club and time of day of the event, there are certain items that just won't do. You should always avoid the following: Denim.

What part of the anchor will hit first to sea bottom? ›

When an anchor is dropped, The crown of the anchor is the first to hit the sea bottom. As the ship moves back, the flukes take its position and embed itself into the seabed. It does not matter from what height the anchor is dropped, the crown will alway hit the bottom first.

Can you sleep while your boat is on autopilot? ›

Standing watch means that you are personally able to detect hazards on the water and take actions to avoid danger or collision. So you can't just flip on the autopilot and go below for a nap, or to make lunch, or to take a pit stop in the head. Somebody must be on watch at all times, and his name better not be Buzz.

What happens if a ship loses its anchor? ›

Anchor and chain loss can often lead to collisions and grounding, which can result in additional damage to a vessel. Adding to the costs of anchor loss is the increasingly common requirement from port authorities that lost anchors are recovered.

What is a female anchor called? ›

noun. an·​chor·​wom·​an ˈaŋ-kər-ˌwu̇-mən. : a woman who anchors a broadcast.

What is the strongest type of anchor? ›

Wedge anchors are typically the strongest anchors, but not every application requires a heavy-duty anchor. Some will do just fine with a plastic wall anchor or a nail-in version.

What are the 5 types of anchor? ›

Let's explore some of the most popular options available for boaters when it comes to anchors.
  • Mushroom Anchor. Very large mushroom anchors are used for moorings or securing buoys. ...
  • Danforth or Fluke Anchor. ...
  • Plow Anchor. ...
  • Claw Anchor. ...
  • Grapnel Anchor. ...
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What is the heaviest anchor ever made? ›

As a result of its very early invention, the East River anchor was made of wood. However, it remains one of the heaviest anchors ever built-in history with a weight spanning thousands of pounds. Mostly, it is predicted that it is up to 5000 pounds and 15 feet long from the surface of the ground.

How deep can a yacht anchor? ›

In emergencies - such as keeping the boat from going ashore during an engine failure or other problem where you lose control of the boat, you may be forced to use less. But practically , with all chain, the deepest you can anchor is a water depth 1/3 the length of your rode.

Can cargo ships be armed against pirates? ›

Background – Merchant Ships Have Historically Been Armed

In colonial times, merchant ships carried cannons and weapons comparable to those found on naval vessels. Weapons were used by the crew to defend the ship and crew against attacks by pirates, privateers and enemy warships.

What keeps a yacht from rocking? ›

Here, Seakeeper's gyro serves to keep things steady on the high seas. As the boat rolls left or right, the gyro swings forward and backward in that cradle. That delivers torque, or rotational force, to the port or starboard, counteracting the motion of the entire boat.

What are pirates scared of? ›

Sailors and pirates tended to be very superstitious - that is, they had a fear of the unknown and used it to explain misfortune (bad things that happened). Living and working on a ship in the middle of the seven seas was a very dangerous job.

Do cruise ship security have guns? ›

Though unlikely, hijackers or pirates may try to take control of a ship. Cruise companies see the risk of this kind of terrorism. In response, many cruise companies place armed security on each of their ships. These trained professionals are ready to defend the passengers on board.

What island has the most pirate history? ›

During the “Golden Age of Piracy” in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Port Royal, Jamaica stood as one of the most popular ports of call for thieves, prostitutes and pirates of every stripe.

What are the most pirate infested waters? ›

South China Sea– Mostly Malaysians or Indonesians, the marine pirates in the South China Sea are regarded to be amongst the most dangerous pirates who ply their nefarious activities.

Does the US Navy fight pirates? ›

Fighting. PIRACY. The U.S. Navy is forward deployed across the globe working with its international partners protecting international shipping, and deterring, disrupting and suppressing piracy. There are three main regions the Navy focuses its efforts to combat piracy.


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