Microdots, microdust, nano tag….all different terms for basically the same, a minuscule small metal plate etched with a unique number. These tiny plates, with a diameter of less than half a millimetre, are hardly visible and difficult to remove, once applied.
How is it applied?
The microdots are added to a transparent adhesive, which is sprayed on to the inside of the hull, engine block and other locations of the vessel. Basically it works the same as when spraying glitter onto a surface. It is a similar concept.
In one container, each individual metal tag has the same unique identification code. Depending on the size and make/producer, a container can contain ten- to serval hundred-thousand microdots.
Why apply microdots?
Both the microdust, as well as the adhesive have characteristics which makes it suitable for the use for which it is meant, being the identification of a vessel.
Depending on the make and producer of the nano tags, all of them are resistant to the elements and are very difficult to remove, once applied. Salty water has no effect at all. Vessels which have been exposed to extreme heat, are still identifiable due to the heat resistance of the microdots.
The volume of microdots being applied on a number of different locations, make it nearly impossible not to identify the vessel. Even if the yacht would be completely stripped the sheer volume of applied dots and not knowing their location make it very difficult to anonymise the vessel.
The microdots in a container all have one and the same unique ID number. As there is no central global registration database, the microdot will also state either company/organisation name or website.
The company or organisation that supplies the microdust will have a database in which all vessels are registered which have been applied with their microdots.
For example, an official of the ships registrar inspects all vessels being registered in the Netherland ships registrar. Yacht owners are offered the option of having the inspector also apply microdots. The microdotted vessel is then also recorded in the database of boats which have microdots applied.
Vessels marked with a nano tag are less interesting for criminals on the look-out for a yacht they can turnaround quickly, as the effort of locating and trying to remove all the microdots is not to be underestimated.
The containers with microdots, which are either applied simply with a small paintbrush or through a spray unit, are very often accompanied with stickers. Window stickers with the unique ID number and the warning that the vessel is microdotted. This alone warns-off potential criminals who have an eye on the boat.
In an ideal world
Now how great would it be if all insurance companies specialised in yacht insurance would :
- issue microdots to each newly insured boat
- cooperate together and have all stolen and lost yachts recorded in one centrally database
A fine example is South-Africa, were all motor vehicles are obliged to be microdotted.
Regretfully we do not live in an ideal world, so each individual boat owner will have to take their own precautions against theft or loss.