You are here

Body Armor for Mariners

Body Armor for Mariners
Benjamin Atkinson February 14, 2018

Maritime security poses a serious issue for governments, international bodies and organizations, legal advisors, risk management firms, shipping and security companies. The global scale of the operations of the maritime industry puts a lot of essential goods and services at risk as they are being transported through some of the busiest routes in the world. These routes are vital for trade and humanitarian purposes and have measurable benefits for all but there are many threats to the maritime personnel in using them.

Growing conflicts and tensions in the Middle East, Far East and North and sub-Saharan Africa have an adverse effect on accessibility for the maritime environment and some of the world’s most important shipping lanes. This has translated to a sharp rise in the incidents related to piracy, terrorism, arms smuggling, corruption, human and drugs trafficking as well as other illegal acts from the category of transnational organized crime, which poses a serious threat to life and liberty and affects the maritime industry personnel.

In 2015 there were 386 maritime crime incidents reported alone and Asia remains the most active region for maritime crime with 66 percent of these incidents being related to some form of pirate activity. Of course, there are other threats that also count for an increase in maritime incidents. The high level of maritime crime is evidence that adequate security measures are desperately necessary now more than ever.

Buoyant Body Armor
Recent advancement of technology has seen several renowned manufacturers turn their interest toward development of body armor with increased buoyancy to meet the requirements of the maritime industry personnel in terms of safety, flexibility and durability. The most common problem of this type of body armor is weight and its restrictive properties. Modern body armor is extremely versatile and lightweight, but still limiting when it comes to flexibility. Heat retention in lightweight body armor is another problematic area that manufacturers are trying to overcome with the incorporation of temperature regulating technologies.

New types of body armor are manufactured to come with inflating technology, so that upon contact with water, the armor provides an extra layer of safety for any personnel working in the maritime industry. In the event of an injury from a pistol or melee weapon, the new BCB’s Inflatable Body Armor System inflates automatically within seconds of coming into contact with water, which means the person will remain afloat without any effort on their part. This upgrade on existing buoyant body armor models is a huge advancement in guaranteeing the safety of maritime personnel in their line of work.

Other existing body armor products are also available on the market and also inflate upon contact with water. However, they usually expand outside the armor and run the risk of damage if the wearer is under attack with gunfire. BCB’s Inflatable Body Armor System is the first of its kind with a capacity of handling 275 Newtons of buoyancy, which means that even if the wearer is carrying heavy gear, the armor will still keep them afloat.

Products for the maritime industry personnel need to address a variety of issues, such as providing body armor with better UV protection and odor control apart from being lightweight and flexible. An added benefit of many of these products is increased comfort as softer materials are preferred. One issue for buoyant body armor comes from the bulletproof materials themselves; allergy to Kevlar, which is commonly used, is quite common and this can pose a significant inconvenience (even health hazard) to people working in the maritime industry wearing body armor for prolonged periods. This has prompted certain revisions in the materials considered by manufacturers and now certain floatation devices and buoyancy aids are available as part of body armor, that rely on different materials to offset the heavy reliance on Kevlar products.

Even further into the future, maritime personnel could be wearing customizable, tailor-made body armor that takes the best components of several styles and types for one light, accessible armor system. This could mean more components to wear and carry, such as layers in cold weather, or having special appliqués that serve a specific need. Whatever the case, manufacturers have made it a priority to design a host of flexible, modifiable materials that meet those requirements or combine those requirements to address the complex needs of the maritime industry and the threats they face.

Lowering the weight of individual pieces of body armor while accounting for the weight of new and additional equipment remains a complex challenge for body armor manufacturers to meet. Additionally, the ballistic material for this type of body armor needs to be specially treated to be impervious to salt water degradation. It is recommended that panels meet or exceed the NIJ 0101.06 requirements for maximum protection.