Due to our geographical location at the southern part of Europe, we have the privilege to offer our risk avoidance services to corporate executives, HNWIs and VIPs that choose Mediterranean and Aegean Sea for their summer holidays. Some of the most famous Greek islands like Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Corfu and Zakynthos are between the popular destinations for luxury mega yacht owners, along with their friends and families that experience some time of total relaxation and recharging of batteries. Is that short – period a vacation time for the operatives providing Executive Protection to those paradise islands too? Certainly not!
The absence of security arrangements before the summer holidays – The most common mistake
One of the frequently seen mistakes is pretty obvious for the security professional, but to our distinguished clients seems a norm: The security arrangements of the trip are totally absent more often than not. What is the type of client that requires protection? Traditionally, as one might imagine it is only the very rich, or family members of the very rich, who are in need of such a service. The wealth and status attract criminal elements that wish to take advantage for financial gain, be it opportunist thieves or organized gangs. Considering also that the total number of in-bound prominent visitors and well-known public figures in southern Europe is high, the demand for close protection services is relatively low; especially during the summer months.
What is the explanation to that? Why successful business leaders do not invest in their own personal security? I guess it is the summer holidays anticipation and the “I need to relax” mentality after a long period of hard work that creates a fake feeling of security that subsequently leads to denial of any kind of security services. It is the same client that while on the yacht a few days later, will ask the crew for some security help for the kids that wish to go to the local night club for a drink. Of course at that point, most likely the client will recall the words of his/her corporate security manager that advised to hire an EP team, but the answer was “It’s not necessary” – Unfortunately, the situation will unfold as follows: the family members’ security will eventually be assigned to a tattooed “Rambo” from a nearby gym that will be hired as bouncer for a very low price. The reason is quite simple too; there is no private security company having operatives on “stand-by mode” for last – minute requests on the small Mediterranean islands as far as I know. Even if there was, responding within 1 hour (or less) after an urgent phone call, it is a first–class proof that the security provider does not take the risk assessment phase too seriously.
Providing close protection services during summer holidays is a difficult task
With that said, it is obvious that it is wiser for the client to ask from the travel and lifestyle management agency to include within their holiday package security coverage too. This is the only effective way to conduct a thorough risk assessment, based on the trip agenda and provide decent services that will offer the desired peace of mind. Even if this is the case, there are some factors that make this task difficult for the EP team on the ground due to the fact that our principals are on vacation:
Big number of guests or/and family members: Yacht chartering is a global trend for the super rich and having their families or friends invited onboard is very common. This could end up as a “nightmare” for the EP team (which most likely is nothing more than 2 operatives) trying to keep them all out of harm’s way, hoping that they will not split.
The need for discreet presence of the EP team: This is a prerequisite too, because summer holidays is the only chance for many of our principals to feel relaxed and spend time with their beloved ones – you don’t want to spoil that and embarrass your clients with a more tight approach. The EP team must have a more flexible behavior, blend-in and avoid suffocating the clients at all costs, without reducing level of alertness.
Frequent changes of schedule: The ideal situation for the security professional is to have access to the trip schedule well-in-advance, in order to make a good plan, coordinate supporting elements, advance the venues etc. Everybody in our line of business knows already that, the boss will not hesitate to change his plans several times within the day, and it’s only the EP team that will have to adjust and adopt to the new reality. Especially during summer holidays, the effort made to satisfy your client and manage schedule changes, is double to say the least. Flexibility, adaptability and being able to think on your feet, are the key to adjust to not being in control of where you are, who you are with, how long you’re staying and where you’re going next.
Water sports and dangerous activities : Swimming , snorkeling , scuba diving and traveling by powerboat or jet-ski, are some of the challenges you might encounter during your summer assignments. Be smart enough to assign an EP team that has a set of skills that match the role, having a diver’s background, lifeguard certification or at a minimum a decent swimming capability. It is a disgrace to ask the yacht crew to help while the client is in the water asking for help! Don’t be that guy! From a medical point of view, statistically 80% of the accidents happening during summer are associated with activities at the beach or while swimming. Sea urchins, allergies caused by jelly fishes, fractures after a sudden fall to the rocks, are considered as minor issues, but in my opinion they are not. Assess each and every risk before a water or outdoors activity, have a well-organized medical kit and some emergency contacts ready to assist you in the unlikely event of an accident.
Increased use of social media during summer holidays: With the increased use of social media, our clients and their families are more exposed to risks. As you can assume from the overall low-profile protection you are providing, you cannot ask from your principals not to post photos or share their happy moments within their social media network. A Facebook or Twitter post though, pinpointing current or future locations, can cause a lot of trouble to your EP team. Make sure you make that clear during the client’s initial briefing, and kindly ask your principals to avoid that on real-time. If it is not possible, you will need some support from your Ops center to constantly monitor social media profiles of your principals and advise immediately so you can at least modify your protective plan.
The world is changing and as a security professional you must have that in mind 24/7. The rise of global terror and criminal groups has meant that you are not even safe on a beach vacation in the Mediterranean.
There are so many details that the EP team needs to predict and take action before something really bad happens. When it comes to the technical aspects of protection on a mega yacht, I will certainly post a relevant article in the near future. Till then, always be prepared for attacks and disasters even if when everybody else around you is relaxed, enjoying a good swim and the sun. Stay safe!
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