12 Tips to Protect Yourself in 2015
As 2015 nears, many of us look towards the future with plans to improve our lives: perhaps you’ll pledge to join a gym, find a more lucrative job, or see more of the world. For mariners, the New-Year’s resolution may involve broadening horizons or exploring seas you’ve never sailed before. If this is the case, then you should take every step to ensure you’re prepared for all eventualities out on fresh waters.
In the following article, SafeGuard Clothing, a manufacturer and designer of body armors, provides tips to help you set sail with the best start.
Preparation is key at sea, regardless of your reasons for sailing: be it passion, a sport or business reasons. Whatever your motivation, various threats and hazards lurk on the ocean, and this guide is dedicated to help you stay as safe as possible in the coming year.
1: Study Your Intended Destinations
Maritime piracy has certainly changed. In recent years, Somalia has become almost synonymous with the crime, yet activity has reduced significantly: in 2013, only 15 incidents were reported, dropping from 75 in 2012, and from 237 in 2011. Overall, however, piracy continues in different areas, with Indonesian waters proving problematic – 50% of all 2013’s incidents occurred there. In 2014, 231 attacks have been reported to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC), proving that mariners must remain vigilant.
Various reputable sites provide live alert maps, highlighting areas experiencing piracy. Do your research before committing to any route, and know what you’re getting into if high-risk zones are unavoidable.
2: Consider Security
For those of you taking vessels out on behalf of shipping companies (with valuable cargo), hiring on-board security personnel to protect yourself, your crew, and your goods may prove beneficial. Many firms offer highly-trained, experienced teams, carrying firearms and protective clothing to deter pirate crews. If your budget allows for this, you’ll find yourself, and your crew, feel more assured of their own safety, and, as a consequence, offer more relaxed, focused performance.
3: Investigate Ballistic Armour
Should you face a confrontation with pirates, body armour may save your life: crews typically carry handguns and rifles (AK-47s, for example), and are ruthless when boarding vessels. Various types of ballistic vests are available, offering multiple levels of protection against the most common forms of ammunition. Research the types of firearm used by pirates in your route, and ensure you carry vests of the right level – hopefully, you’ll never need to don armour, but preparing for the worst is vital.
4: Carry Additional Armours
While bullets and explosives are likely to be the most dangerous weaponry you’ll face in pirate-populated seas, knives and other sharp objects may also be used against you. Stab vests feature multiple layers of Kevlar to generate friction against blades (of various sizes), and many also incorporate spike protection, with an extra-tight weave to trap pointed tips (common to needles, shivs etc.). Perhaps carry these as back-ups, in case a low-tech crew attacks with improvised weaponry.
5: Invest in New Protective Gear
Aside from body armour, additional protective gear is essential to stay as safe as possible at sea. Life jackets, thermals, equipment – carrying a well-stocked load is the best way to prepare for any eventuality, so if your current selection is in need of a refresh, make sure you invest wisely. Check safety standards, and order from reputable suppliers.
6: Become Acquainted with Firearms
If you work on cargo vessels for shipping companies, which may be targeted by pirates, you may want to study firearms they commonly use: this doesn’t necessarily mean practice firing them, but try to understand how they work, what their average velocities are – this will help you choose the best armour to defend against them, and also give you a head-start should you manage to seize control of an attacker’s weapon.
7: Try Ballistic Helmets
Security teams operating at sea typically wear ballistic vests only, yet some may wear ballistic helmets, too. While these offer a maximum of level 3A defence, they can prove invaluable should you encounter gunfire, protecting your head from lower-velocity bullets. Most offer high impact-resistance, reducing the danger of head-injuries caused by fists or falls. Maritime-specific models are available, offering effective performance in varying temperatures and weather conditions.
8: Look into Additional Protective Gear
You may want to wear extra protective clothing to reduce injury across other parts of your body, besides the torso and head. Ballistic upper-arm protection is available, defending areas you may not consider as vulnerable, while shin-guards can keep your legs protected while exposed (moving between cover, in close-combat, etc.). You must ensure you find the right size for your body, to enjoy maximum protection – seek expert advice from your chosen supplier before buying. Ballistic goggles protect your eyes from fragments, but also against harsh weather/environmental dangers (heavy rainfall, splinters from broken fixtures etc.).
9: Try Maritime-Specific Armours
If you believe you may need body armour, manufacturers now produce ballistic vests designed specifically for maritime use. These feature detachable inflatable collars, and their Kevlar fibres remain unaffected by exposure to water – in standard bulletproof vests, moisture can negate their protective capabilities.
10: Prepare for Worst-Case Scenarios
Whether you’re sailing for leisure, with friends or family, or on business, preparing for the worst situation possible is never fun, but it is important to be ready. Consider your plans for viable high-risk scenarios: what should you do if approached by pirates? What’s your next step if a fire breaks out? How do you rescue someone who falls overboard? Formulate plans – either alone or with your fellow sailors/crew – and keep them close to hand.
11: Pay Attention to Warnings
Unless you feel your journey is absolutely unavoidable, always abandon planned routes or avoid certain areas altogether if advised to. Coast Guard and naval ships may warn you of potential piracy threats as you approach high-risk seas, so always listen. While you may want to show loyalty to your employer, or press on to achieve your personal goals, you need to consider if this is worth your life and well-being?
12: Carry Enough Protective Gear for All Travellers
This may seem an obvious point, but its importance may be overlooked in the preparatory stages: always carry enough protective gear for everyone on-board at time of embarkation, and those expected to join you along the way. Ensure you have a choice of items to suit specific situations, from fires to boarding by pirates.
Article by SafeGuard Clothing