Boat owners urged to be vigilant as gangs target engines


BOAT OWNERS were yesterday urged to improve their security by putting special identification marks on outboard engines, as it emerged that the theft of boating equipment in Europe is now estimated at €75 million annually.

Simon Lofting, the president of the International Association of Marine Investigators, said the theft of marine equipment, including boats, rigid inflatable boats and outboard engines, had become a lucrative business across Europe for crime gangs.

Yesterday’s conference in Cork, which was attended by about 100 delegates, was hosted by the Garda Water Unit. Sgt Liam Grimes echoed Mr Lofting in advising Irish boat owners to improve their security to prevent marine equipment theft.

Mr Lofting, a member of the Essex police marine unit in the UK, said eastern European crime groups had become highly organised in the theft of outboard engines, which on average cost about €20,000 and can be sold quickly on the black market in the Baltic states.

“The theft of boat engines has gone through the roof. We’re targeted by eastern European crime groups which travel up and down through Europe, in your country and in my country, stealing outboard engines. They are extremely well organised and make big money,” he said.

According to Mr Lofting, these criminal groups will travel thousands of miles over two or three days, carry out reconnaissance on boats and then move in and steal the engines, which are then moved out of the host country and back to eastern Europe.

Some of the crime groups create fake serial numbers for the engines, which, along with stolen boats, can often be used by criminals in committing further crime such as drug smuggling, he said.

Mr Lofting said boat owners should take a photograph of their boat and engine and keep a record of the engine’s serial number. If possible, they should invest in a GPS tracking device to allow the boat to be traced if stolen.