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Marine Security Advice from Police CPI

At the height of the global pandemic, borders were closed, flights were cancelled, and holidays were postponed. According to figures from British Marine, many people used this as an opportunity to look closer to home for their leisure activities, with boat sales increasing 9% in 2020, compared to the previous year.  

Having spent a lot of money buying and maintaining a boat or other form of marine craft, the last thing anyone wants is to be a victim of crime. While accurate crime statistics in this area are difficult to come by – marine crime is thought to be highly underreported - there have been notable increases in theft and damage of marine equipment.

Thieves are attracted to all kinds of things at marinas and sailing clubs –outboard motors, life rafts, electronic/GPS equipment – in fact, they’ll steal anything that takes their fancy – radios, mobile phones, laptops, fishing tackle, personal items and even the boat itself. With this in mind, it is vitally important to make sure that your craft is secured along with the equipment onboard.


Police CPI, in conjunction with the Border Force-owned Project Kraken initiative, are working to raise awareness of marine crime and the steps boat owners can take to avoid becoming victims.

When thinking of marine security, think STORM

  • Security – physical security measures
  • Track – property marking & tracking systems
  • Observe – keep an eye on your marina / sailing club
  • Report suspicious activity
  • Monitor at all times – CCTV and alarms

Don’t consider each of the measures in isolation – using a combination of physical and technical security measures will increase boat security and keep your possessions safe.


Security (physical security measures)

Make sure your cockpit lockers are properly locked and keep unused ropes, fenders and other items out of sight. Check that your main hatch and fore hatch are locked with a Secured by Design (SBD) approved padlock. Think about having a small SBD approved safe or security cabinet onboard to store small valuable items. If your boat is stored on a trailer, take extra steps to make sure that it is secure. At the very least you should have an SBD approved wheel clamp, hitch lock and ground anchor system.

Track (property marking & tracking systems)

Security marking your outboard and electronic equipment using a Secured by Design recognised forensic asset marking or etching kit is a highly effective, visible deterrent to thieves and an established method of reducing theft. Keep a record of serial numbers on valuables like your radio, navigation equipment or outboard motor, chassis and model numbers for trailers and take note of any custom marks on the trailer or boat. Keep a copy of the list at home and on your boat. Take colour photographs from several angles as well as a video with a smartphone.

Fit a Tracking system – consider using a tracking system on your boat or yacht and especially your outboard engine to increase the chances of recovery. They activate once the vessel or outboard is stolen and alert the tracking company who use GPS systems and other communication technologies to locate the stolen property in the UK and importantly overseas. SBD have several members which specialise in this area and can advise on the best system for you.

Observe (keep an eye on your marina / sailing club)

Most marinas have on-site CCTV and restrict access to the site; however, you still need to look out for each other and be a good neighbour. Get to know other boat owners in your marina and work together to keep the marina secure.

Keep an eye on other boats, as well as your own, and always keep the pontoon gate closed. Don’t give your marina/pontoon access card or key to other people, and never tell anyone else the access code to the marina/pontoon. Don’t let strangers into the marina/pontoon, however genuine they may seem. Be aware of ‘tailgating’ – people accessing private areas by following in those with legitimate access.

Report suspicious activity

Report any strangers at the marina to the harbour master or yard master. Be vigilant at all times in and around the water and report anything suspicious to the Police - use the 101 facility for passing information (by phone or online), or call 999 in an emergency.

Monitor at all times (CCTV and alarms)

It’s a good idea to fit an alarm and use a visible sticker to say that one is installed. If you don’t have mains power, consider using a battery-operated GSM mobile alert system and camera which can alert you to anything suspicious or if the main hatch has been opened.

If you have pontoon facilities and Wi-Fi technology there are systems which can be linked to your phone and tablet to alert you to any activation, allowing you to view your boat or yacht in real time.

Doug Skins, Development Officer for Secured by Design, impresses on the importance of reporting marine crime. “Although the precise number of cases remains unknown, outboard motor theft continues to be a problem. Reporting all instances of crime in relation to your boat, sailing club and marina help local police forces to establish where they are needed, and allows Police CPI to develop more effective crime prevention strategies.”

Developing this further, Police Sergeant Matthew Gransden, from Hampshire Constabulary’s Marine Unit, commented: “Marine crime is very difficult to try and impact upon without the support of owners and stakeholders – we have large quantities of very valuable property that is, by its nature, often left unattended in isolated locations for long periods. This means we’re predominantly alerted to acquisitive crime a significant time after the incident occurred and evidence can be hard to come by.

“Anything owners can do to reduce the time between occurrence and discovery is very helpful – regular checks and tracking or alerting devices offer good potential.

“Marine property is specialist, and we strongly encourage owners to be diligent in marking their property and recording serial numbers and photographic records of unique marks or modifications at the point of taking ownership. If they are then unlucky enough to be a victim of crime, the unique nature of marine items means there is an increased chance the property will be identified as stolen at a later date – Police Marine teams regularly struggle to prove ownership and reunite the rightful owners with their property.” 



For more marine security advice, visit

For more information on Project Kraken, go to


Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (Police CPI) is a police-owned organisation that delivers a wide range of innovative and ground-breaking crime prevention initiatives to support the wider UK Police Service, Government and the general public.

Police CPI act as a catalyst to bring organisations together to reduce crime and create safer communities, working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, central government, manufacturers, companies involved in security products (within the UK and those in countries that supply the UK) and standards authorities.

Police CPI’s Secured by Design (SBD) initiative operates an accreditation scheme on behalf of the UK Police Service for products or services that have met recognised security standards. These products or services are known as being of a ‘Police Preferred Specification’. SBD is the only way for companies to obtain police recognition for security-related products in the UK, through the Police Preferred Specification.

To find out more about Secured by Design, becoming a member, or to find details of products which have achieved Police Preferred Specification, visit

Follow Secured by Design on Twitter (@securedbydesign) for crime prevention news and advice.