Ballistic Tenders

Posted June 29, 2017, 11:06 a.m.
Ballistic Tenders (Download PDF)


- in Superyacht Tenders


By - Josh Richardson




Whilst rumours abound about certain superyachts having bulletproof glass and ballistic protection I am not sure there are many superyacht tenders you can think of which have this, which seems strange as surely tender transfers would be the time during which guests are most vulnerable and an easier target?


We believe that at Superyacht Tenders and Toys we are project managing some of the world’s first fully enclosed custom limousine tenders with ballistic protection. In speaking to all of the premium custom builders suitable for very high end limousine tenders it certainly seems we are tackling new ground and we have learnt lots in the process.


Opinions on bullet proofing vary and it may all be a step too far into the world of James Bond or Jack Bauer for some, but the fact is that the need for this technology exists and it has become part of the superyacht world.   We took on the challenge of incorporating this protection into tender builds at the specific request of our clients and we now have boats in build that are able to withstand three shots within a 10cm radius from an AK-47 at a 10m range. We now feel confident to offer this on future custom builds for clients who feel that this would be advantageous to them.  In researching and designing these boats we have learnt some key lessons which are shared below.


As yacht tender designers, consultants, and project managers but not ballistics experts our first port of call was to a specialist supplier of firearms protection equipment who offers services to the military as well as to private clients and they have guided us through the process.





In the early stages of the design we needed to consider these key criteria:


1.               Where will the vessel be used and what is the threat level? For instance, if the vessel will be predominantly based in Europe, the threat is very different to a vessel based in the Middle East

2.               Vessel specifications, in particular performance and weight. How many people must the tender carry? How fast must the vessel run and what’s the maximum range it has to achieve?

3.               Are there any constrictions imposed by the mothership (size of garage, capacity of crane etc.)?


Once these criteria have been considered, we can provide a tailor made protection kit for the vessel, taking into account the full threat assessment and based on protection and performance requirements. In order to achieve this package we work closely with owners’ representatives and their security consultants and discuss all aspects with them as it is key for all parties to understand how the boats will be used and to work out a best practice.  


For superyacht tenders the main issues in incorporating bullet proofing is adding weight, which impacts performance, and reducing the interior volume of the guest space due to the added thickness of glass and hull liners.Often this will also be constrained by the garage dimensions and crane capacity on the mothership. As a guide a 12m ballistic limousine tender will weigh approximately 2000kg more than a comparable non-ballistic tender, so the design of this boat, the buoyancy, engine and drive package are critical. The handling will have significant compromises as it will weigh around 30% more than a non-ballistic vessel (depending upon the threat level it is built to, see below).



Threat level


Based off the client’s profile and consultation with security advisors we first agree on a realistic threat/protection level to work to. The most commonly used weapon in the world is the AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle. Even after almost seven decades, the model and its variants remain the most popular and widely used assault rifles in the world due to its low production costs compared with contemporary Western weapons. It is estimated that over 100 million variants of the weapon are currently in circulation worldwide with the majority based in the Middle East, Africa and the Far East – scary reading.


With superyachts travelling vast distances worldwide and the increased threat of International terrorism and modern day pirates, Superyacht Tenders and Toys have been advised to consider the AK47 assault rifle to be the biggest threat to the guests and crew of the vessel.


In considering the threat level and the design of the boat it is important to identify which areas of the vessel need to be protected. Does the vessel require full protection? Can we protect the “high risk” areas of the vessel only (guest area, cockpit and engine bay)? With the added weight and cost of ballistics there are compromises to be made, perhaps the largest of which would be whether to protect the whole vessel, or just to create a citadel around the cabin.


On many occasions, reducing the ballistics protection to key areas such as the cabin on limousines is preferred to keep vessel characteristics but alternatives can be suggested such as remote driving helms, cameras and increased communications so that occupants can get themselves to safety. The ability to run away from threats is decreased the heavier and more cumbersome the vessel is.



Cruising areas are also important to review. For example, where the boat is located, is there more risk of a threat such as overhead shots, or should we design to the typical standards of having all vertical surfaces at 100% protection but decks, roof and console at 45% threat level? Tough decisions to be made by anyone.










Ballistic glazing is an important consideration in the design of a tender; bulletproof glass is typically comprised of multiple sheets of silica glass laminated together with a non-polyacrylic interlayer between them. The use of a scratch-resistant spall panel (soft material mounted in the crew compartment of a vehicle which serves to prevent fragments generated during an impact from being accelerated towards the occupants) on the inboard surface offers 100% protection to crew and passengers alike. This can be made to any shape and size but typical weight per metre of AK47 threat level glass is 84kg.


It may be advisableto reduce the overall area of the glass to keep total weight down to a minimum. Security is also increased with less glazing, as more opaque surfaces makes it difficult for the attacker to fix on a target. Flat glass is often a lot more competitively priced and readily available than the more aesthetically pleasing, curved panes so often requested by designers so a balance needs to be struck between cost and design.



Legion Polyethylene for AK47 or similar threat level


Legion polyethylene can be used on marine vessels and other secure areas where lighter weight ballistic protection is required. The Legion Polyethylene panels have a white finish to them and can be encapsulated in an environmental coating to protect the material from UV and everyday wear and tear. This material offers multi-hit protection (tested to 3 shots from 10m in a 10cm radius).


Legion Aramid


Legion aramid is a lower cost alternative to Legion polyethylene and is lighter in density and more malleable than steel or GRP armours. The material is predominately used for ballistic spall linersand is ideal for lower levels of protection. In layman’s terms an example of this could be a Kevlar curtain around a guest cabin on a limousine tender.


Individual panels of bullet proof materials can be manufactured in “flat sheet” form, or moulded to follow the design and contours of a vessel (SYTT preferred method). Lead time is typically three months for hull liners and ballistic glass so this needs to be considered when making decisions.








If considering ballistics protection, it is well worth planning for it as early as possible in the build process as it has significant implications on the design in terms of weight, performance and handling. Adding glass in the roof for example can make the limousine roll more at sea. That said, if considered from the very beginning and a boat with suitable buoyancy is chosen then it can be added with little effect on the owner. Ballistic protection adds increased sound proofing and has several positives for the owner’s and guests’ experience on board, most notably with heavy limousines being typically more comfortable at sea if well balanced.


With advances in technology to include scanners, infrared cameras and heat proximity sensors there are increasing ways to anticipate and avoid being in the situation of having to rely on ballistics protection which would always be the preferred route.


Finally, the nature of this subject means that key decisions need to be made on the threat level of the principal which is often beyond the pay scale of a captain, project manager or tender builder as compromises will need to be made somewhere in the build of a bullet proof tender and where lives can be involved this needs to be authorised by the principal. 


If bullet-proofing is something that is being considered for your projects then Superyacht Tenders and toys can add significant value to your build.


Contact: Josh Richardson - [email protected]