From the outside it looks like an innocuous freight container but the reality is a highly sophisticated life support system that can protect personnel for up to 96 hours after an external loss of power.
This innovative design recently won Crewshield the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2016, just five years after the company was set-up by Mr Samways, who previously served 10 years in the Royal Navy in clearance diving and later as a boarding officer.
The citadel has both a land based and maritime application and the first Crewshield citadels hit the market at a time when piracy was rife off the coast of East Africa proving a popular on-board addition for crews faced with kidnap and ransom.
Its disguise, within a 20’ shipping container allowed it to blend easily on board but also gave the citadel a very functional application, allowing the unit to be transported quickly throughout the world by land, sea and air.
Indeed Crewshield’s roots in the maritime industry is what first drew Mr Samways to the container based modular system but the product’s benefits are just as applicable on land. The attack on the In Amenas project in 2013, whose investors included Statoil and BP, “left a lot of people very shaken up … that has not gone away”, says Mr Samways.
Chief executives never want to ask themselves later what more they could have done
Oil and gas has become an important sector for Crewshield and, while the slide in the price of crude has slowed the development of the market, Mr Samways says mining is another target market, particularly in places such as Mali and other areas of Sub-Saharan Africa with security problems.
Mr Samways says, “Historically the risk for companies was getting their gold or their equipment stolen … Now it is their people that are being targeted.”
Crewshield’s customers include the UK government and the UN, though the company is understandably guarded about discussing its corporate clients and where they deploy the product.
Mr Samways says the Citadel has several advantages for workers wanting to protect themselves in a dangerous situation. First, even without mains power, the self-sufficient units would let more than 20 people survive for 96 hours in the shelter with an outdoor temperature of up to 55 degrees Celsius.
“Nothing is impregnable, but this buys time,” he says.
Second, by isolating personnel in a protected way, when forces arrive they can seek to regain control of a site, safe in the knowledge that people will not be caught up in any crossfire and there are unlikely to be any hostages.
The launch of their MK4 Citadel earlier this year highlighted just how far the company had come in terms of innovation and response to market developments.
The company takes pride in being at the forefront of technology, from the communication equipment it uses to the hidden external surveillance it provides, all designed to maximise the products potential.
Once inside the Citadel, Mr Samways demonstrates how the communications equipment can be used to contact rescue forces, a company’s headquarters or perhaps even medical experts in case of the need for remote diagnoses of ill or injured staff. Retractable hammocks are built into the wall and an escape hatch provides an alternative exit in case the front door is blocked.
Mr Samways says Crewshield “gives companies options” and can be tailored to the threats they face.
The low profile nature of a shipping container, commonplace on construction sites and at logistics posts is particularly useful when companies are working alongside the local community and do not want to draw attention to themselves.
“Razor wire, static guardforces and guardhuts can often create the wrong impression when it comes to building relations with locals; the Citadel allows our clients to maintain a low profile but gives them the assurance of armoured protection should a situation start to develop.”
If there are rumours of disturbances or mounting local tensions, says Mr Samways, companies might prefer to have the option of an on-site refuge rather than having to evacuate a site for several days.
“It is another tool in the armoury — sometimes you cannot move all people out safely,” he points out. “A lot of this is about using new technology that helps to fulfil a duty of care and deliver another level of protection for staff.”
Chief executives, he says, never want to get a call in the middle of the night about an incident and then have to ask themselves later what more they could have done.
Meanwhile, for employees working on remote sites, “when they see the investment that has been made, it makes them feel that their security is being taken seriously”, he says.