How technology helps a ship Captain with ship security
października 14, 2021


As globalization and global trade increase, methods of transporting goods across the world adapt to keep up. On our oceans, for instance, the largest ships grew by 155% between 2006 and 20201. These floating cities have their own world of specific processes, skillsets and needs to keep them safe and efficient. Video technologies can provide innovative solutions for several day-to-day issues facing a ship’s Captain, including ship security.

All ship’s activities, ‌including seaworthiness, safety and security, cargo operations, navigation, crew management, and legal compliance‍, are the Captain’s responsibility. The Captain needs to keep an eye on all operations and bears the final responsibility for them. The larger the ship, the trickier this role is to play, so a Captain welcomes any value smart technologies deliver.

Ship security in dock

An intensive part of a ship’s operation is docking, or mooring. Persuading a 100,000-ton cargo ship to dock gently and safely to a dock is a delicate operation. Many ships now use video cameras to help them to see all around the ship to ensure optimal positioning for this. A camera can provide an alert when the dock wall gets too close, for example, according to a preset distance.

Another potential issue when docking is if the anchors do not deploy properly. Cameras are mounted to give the bridge a clear view of anchor chains to monitor this. This is also true of winches and cranes which can delay loading or unloading if faulty or ‘stuck’. 


When docked, a ship can be vulnerable to unauthorized boarding. Access control technology helps with that, allowing only those with permission to board, for example. With potentially valuable, sensitive, and even potentially dangerous cargoes, this becomes a priority while the ship is in harbor.

Ship security at sea

Once the ship sets sail, focus shifts to a different set of scenarios. Safety at sea is paramount for a Captain, with fire being the largest treat. Fire on board a ship can be particularly dangerous, since there is only a finite amount of space for people to go for safety. Potentially flammable materials in the hold, as well as a lot of electrical wiring and generator equipment, add to the risk factors to consider.

Thermal cameras can provide an alert on the bridge if the temperature in a vulnerable area gets too high. This means the crew can act before a fire breaks out.

Another threat always on any modern Captain’s mind is that of piracy. Although Hollywood films often romanticize pirates, they are a very real danger, both to crew safety and cargo. In 2020, 195 ships were attacked by pirates2 across the world. In fact, insurers estimate the price of piracy as $12 million in a year3.

Pirates often use boats that are too small to be detected by radar. If they attack at night, this reduces the ability of the ship’s crew to discover them until it is too late. Low-light functionality in cameras, like Hikvision’s DarkFighter technology can help a lot with this. In some cases, the crew also carries out patrols around the deck to check for approaching vessels. At night, they can use thermal handheld cameras to help see through the dark. They need no light at all to function, and so can be effective on even the darkest, and stormiest night.

Many large modern ships have a citadel built into the design, in case boarding is unavoidable. This is a ‘safe room’ where the crew can go to protect them against a pirate attack. This is also where video cameras around the ship come in handy. All the feeds can be diverted to the citadel in times of attack, so the Captain and the crew monitor the situation. This means they can better inform rescue agencies for a peaceful and effective outcome.

Fit for purpose

The sea is an inhospitable environment for equipment. High salt content in the air, driving rain, and high winds are constantly present. Cameras need to be fit-for-purpose to withstand this. Hikvision cameras for external maritime use are all anti-corrosive to NEMA standards. The stainless-steel casings provide protection against the elements, and optional wipers also counteract spray.

A ship can occasionally be ‘disconnected’ from power and networks. To increase availability of evidence the camera can store locally on SD card in case anything happens to the HDD or NVR. If one of these failed the SD offers the backup recordings.

Many ships operate on analog systems, and refitting a ship entirely to update this is time and cost-heavy. So, Hikvision maritime solutions offer hybrid devices, which can be used with both analog and digital systems. This provides a flexibility whether a ship is being fitted while being built, or retrofitted on a maintenance layover.

With increasing responsibilities on the shoulders of a ship’s Captain, the addition of smart technology can give a great deal of peace of mind. From guiding a ship into dock to avoiding fire and even pirates, an integrated maritime solution can be worth its weight in gold. It gives the Captain the tools to monitor ship security throughout its operations.





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