FIRST it was luxury cars, now it appears that the Mediterranean and the South of France and Spain in particular, are the current hunting grounds for gangs of yacht thieves. According to a report in the Sunday Express The Med is becoming a magnet for criminals in the same way that the Spanish Main attracted thousands of buccaneers between the 16th and 18th centuries. The report went on to cite a number of robberies in Ibiza last summer and, while many of the yacht skippers and professional crews in the Balearics will be accustomed to the potential dangers of sailing in Asia and the South Pacific, tightening security and vigilance in the Western Mediterranean is going to be a relatively new experience. However, sources for the yachting industry in the Balearics yesterday rubbished the claims saying that this year, there have been no reported incidents. One of the principal brokers in Bota Foc, Ibiza, categorically denied that there had been any yacht robberies this summer and that security is tighter than ever. In Puerto Portals, for example, a whole new closed-circuit television system has been installed and 24-hour security has been stopped up. In the Arenal, Club de Mar and Club Nautico yacht clubs, security, which has always been a primary concern for all yacht clubs and marinas, is said to be tighter than ever and extremely effective. Last summer there were two robberies on board yachts in the Port of Andratx but the Balearic yachting industry is by no means facing a crime wave. Where there does appear to be a problem is in the Eastern Med. While the Sunday Express report mentioned a handful of robberies in Ibiza, it went on to reveal that armed gangs are operating off Greece and Turkey while the Balkans is where the problem of boat theft is very serious. The nautical industry is one of the backbones of the Balearic economy. The marine sector has a big enough battle on its hands to secure greater recognition and support from the local authorities that reports of piracy in the Mediterranean are going to do little to help their cause. In the long run, it may damage the local economy.
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