Google, Radio Mix for Pirate Early Warning

29.04.09

Categorie: Africa, Naval, Piracy |

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These days the U.N. requires all large commercial ships to broadcast their location and identity using the Automated Identification System beacon technology. In developing countries with poor maritime enforcement, especially in West Africa, the local coast guard can compare AIS tracks to a radar picture to figure out if any ships are trying to sneak around, perhaps with contraband, illegal fish hauls or even cargoes of slaves.

The same basic method might help the world fight Somali pirates. Kongsberg Satellite Services in Norway has developed a simple, affordable method for spotting potential pirates and warning ships’ crews. The system blends AIS data and a satellite image. “What we do is compare the corresponding AIS signals to the satellite image and compare the AIS list to the object list. All objects not appearing in the AIS list are highlighted. … In principle we can do this anywhere in the world. Basically, ships with nothing to hide will report their position, those not reporting their position raise questions.”

Pirates, needless to say, don’t use AIS.

A crew sailing into pirate waters could request this intel before reaching a danger zone. KSAT can deliver it by email. Thus equipped with a basic sense of who’s trying to hide in the surrounding waters, the crew should know where to look for potential attackers.

(Art: KSAT)

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7 Responses to “Google, Radio Mix for Pirate Early Warning”

  1. B.Smitty says:

    Do the hundreds or thousands of regional fishermen use AIS? If not, the false alarm rate will be far too high.

  2. Scathsealgaire says:

    I used to be a small boat operator of a Survey Ship, for us to even be seen on radar we had to have a radar reflective ball on a pipe sticking up 2.5 metres in the air. With out it no one would have picked us up on radar.
    So straight away I see a problem with this Tech.

  3. ajay says:

    Scath: The radar search is presumably looking for pirate motherships, not the little boats, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
    But a mothership is basically a repurposed Somali trawler. Which raises two problems: 1) either legit trawlers don’t always have AIS, as Smitty mentions; or 2) they do, and so the motherships do too, and they won’t show up until after they’ve made their attack (when they will presumably turn it off).

  4. The idea leaves enough room for error. But crews on Maritime Patrol Aircraft use a similiar approach. However, they have the capability to come close to suspicious objects to confirm their findings…

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