Body Armor For the Maritime Industry

Shipping Crew

Many shipping companies have now begun to issue their crews with body armor due to the increased threat of sea piracy, which has become common in the last 10 years. Transport ships will often carry millions of pounds worth of goods, meaning they are often targeted by pirates and gangs at sea, which can then put crew aboard them at massive risk. In order to help protect their crew and cargo, shipping companies can provide their staff with body armor. This will provide each individual with a high level of protection if they were to come under attack while at sea.

The increase in piracy has also led to an improvement in the types of weapons that are used during attacks. These can range from knives and low powered handguns, up to high powered rifles.  As a result it is important that shipping companies ensure that their staff are completely protected against the full range of threats that they could possibly face, and it is important to remember that the crew does not have to wear the vests on a day to day basis, only if their ship was to come under attack.

An NIJ Level IIIa bullet proof vest will protect the wearer from handgun threats up to high powered Magnums, and this can be used in conjunction with NIJ Level III or NIJ Level IV hard armor plates, which will protect the wearer from rifle rounds. Shipping companies may also consider additional upgrades such as neck, throat, groin and arm protection for their crew, to unsure they have a full range of protection.

Maritime Security

Maritime Security Operatives (MSOs) face a unique set of threats in their role. Facing long periods at sea, extreme conditions, and hostile and prepared attackers, it is important for MSOs to be secure in their body armor. The threat of piracy makes Maritime Security essential in protecting the main transport networks of the world’s economy, as well as commercial and privately owned craft. It has been estimated that the cost of Somali based piracy alone was $6bn in 2012, and attacks from pirates continue to happen worldwide. For MSOs to be confident in their ability to protect their clients, they must be confident in their body armor.

It is likely that a bullet proof vest will be the first port of call for Maritime Security, although there may be a need for other forms of protection; in 75% of all pirate attacks the vessel being attacked was boarded and in more than 1 of 5 attacks an edged or spiked weapon was used. It may be that for complete protection an MSO requires a multi-threat vest that can protect against knives and similar weapons without sacrificing ballistic protection. However, as reports indicate that the strength and caliber of firearms being used is increasing, it may be that MSOs wish to have more protection in the form of hard armor that can protect against high caliber and even armor piercing rounds.

These hard armors are of course much heavier than their soft counterparts, which can be a problem if an MSO finds themselves overboard. Fortunately, many manufacturers offer vests specifically designed with Maritime Security in mind, and utilise floatation and buoyancy devices to counter this problem. Similarly, making materials thinner and lighter can benefit MSOs who work in hot and humid conditions, and SafeGuard utilises CoolMax technology in some vests to help regulate the temperature of the wearer and draw moisture away from the skin. Similarly, body armor can be waterproofed to protect against submergence damage, which can seriously damage Kevlar and other bullet resistant materials otherwise.