Many remember the eerie CCTV images of a burglar boarding a yacht in a Sint Maarten marina last winter. He made it inside the salon and stole laptops and iPods, but it could have been worse. Had the crew had early warning of the intruder’s approach, perhaps the threat could have been defused.
In light of the recent rise in piracy in some parts of the world and general concern about the vulnerability of pleasure craft and their occupants, yacht security has become a fast-growing industry. Companies that provide crew training, specialized equipment and protection strategies are emerging rapidly. David Zutler is CEO of LSN (LifeSafetyNow), a company that focuses on yacht perimeter protection. Zutler, whose background is in security for high-value real estate, has developed a system that uses low-wattage, fast-cycling radar and defense industry software that integrates with a yacht’s existing security features to provide early warning of threats to vessels in marinas, at anchor or at sea. His LSN System was introduced at the 2010 Monaco Yacht Show. He spoke about his system with Yachts International Editorial Assistant Editor Erica Cooper in Fort Lauderdale last fall. Here are some of his comments:
David Zutler: “We’ve combined state of the art security hardware with Department of Defense technology that we have been allowed to privatize. We’re able to protect by more than just having security cameras onboard. We provide a total security package. I’m a security specialist and I’ve been doing it since 1979. Most folks who assume when you’re talking security on yachts, you are talking about cameras or armed security personnel. Life safety protection is much more. It is about getting the right specialists who understand how to utilize different technologies to provide proper life safety protection for the crew and passengers. My specialty is electronics, but in designing the proper overall protection of our clients, we bring together the most qualified security professionals available. When training crews for proper security and emergency response, we bring in world-renowned top professionals in their field to provide the training.
“We introduced the system in Monaco a year ago. This is all new technology that has come into the marketplace. A key component of the LSN system is high-speed radar. Compared to the radars that operate in the 32-35 rotations per minute, ours operates at 60 rpm. This puts a protection zone around the yacht and if someone comes within that zone, a thermal-imaging camera and a CCTV camera lock on and track the threat wherever it goes. Ours is one of the few cameras in the world that allows you to toggle between high definition and thermal imaging picture. It can pick up a swimmer. It can pick up potential threats underwater if 360 sonar is linked in. Some products include tracking aspects in their systems, but no one has this high-speed radar. If you have slower radar, you’ll see an image intermittently. Ours tracks targets in real time.
“What we are able to provide is the ability for a crew-designated protection zone around a yacht. The captain can easily design this himself or herself. So if you’re off the coast of Mustique or wherever, and you want to protect your water toys and tenders—a lot of those are being stolen now—you can extend the zone to include them so you do not have to stow them each night. The parameters can be saved, so if you return to Mustique next year and anchor in or around the same place, the command and control software remembers the protection zone so you don’t have to reconfigure it.
“When a target comes into the protection zone, it’s assigned a tracking number and the camera with the high-speed radar is tracking it and locking on. The LSN can handle multiple targets while giving you the speed, longitude, latitude and heading. LSN software has the ability to integrate AIS. If something comes within the protection zone and it doesn’t have AIS and you’re out in open water, that’s your first red flag. If it does, the system will automatically pull up all the AIS information. The system is set up for a distance of approximately 2,800 meters, but there are camera and radar systems with a range of up to eight miles.
“If an owner decides to take the tender alone to go ashore to have dinner. You can include that area in the protection zone. When he comes back, the alert is given to the crew. The watch can make sure the owner is coming back by himself under no duress and that you’re there to welcome him on board.
“Also built into the system are provisions for medical emergencies. We can work with whatever medical organization the yacht is using or make a recommendation. We can then incorporate information garnered into the overall security and life safety plan for the yacht. When we founded Westec Security in 1979, we would approach people and say, ‘We’d like to talk to you about our life safety and security systems,’ and they’d go, ‘Oh, you mean a burglar alarm?’ So it took a while to educate people on the difference. When people think about security on yachts, they don’t necessarily see the distinction or that life safety and security go hand in hand.
“The beautiful thing about our technology is that we can utilize existing cameras and sensors as long as they meet the standards for our system, but it’s not like we have to go in and redo the yacht, and people really appreciate that.”
For more information, visit LifeSafetyNow.com