Big Data Analytics Helping to Secure the Seas

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
While new tracking and mapping technologies have given oceangoing ships unprecedented visibility of the seas, it has also lead to a glut of data that can be unreliable. One system — Windward’s MARINT — works to sort and verify that information to create safer seas, said a company executive.

“The data is massive. There are hundreds of millions of data points a day on ships worldwide,” said Michal Chafets, head of communications for Windward, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based maritime data and analytics company. However, information is often “fragmented because it comes from lots of different sources, and it’s intentionally manipulated.”

Most large ships are required to carry Automatic Identification System beacons. However, because it requires manual input, it can be easily manipulated to display fake coordinates, she noted, making the seas still very much a “wild west.”

The International Maritime Organization, which is part of the United Nations, mandated that by the end of 2004 all ships above 300 gross tonnage going on international voyages were required to carry AIS. Additionally, all passenger-carrying vessels and cargo ships above 500 gross tonnage were required to use the tracking system.

MARINT collects AIS data as well as information from other sources to give users increased situational awareness of their surroundings, Chafets said. The system creates profiles for individual ships that include which flag it flies under, where it has been and its usual routes.

According to a recent Windward study, a growing number of ships are falsifying AIS data for nefarious purposes, Chafets said. The company found that one percent of all ships using AIS transmit false data, which is equivalent to 1,000 passengers going through John F. Kennedy International Airport every day with a fake passport, she said. “That would be a pretty big security concern.”

Often these ships use fake coordinates to mask illicit behavior, such as the smuggling of goods, she said.

Windward recently unveiled a new version of MARINT that offers users new modules, she said. The early warning system gives vessels real-time alerts on ships that match certain suspicious characteristics relative to that user’s interest, she said. A separate target discovery system alerts customers to ships that are exhibiting unusual behavior and may be a threat.

Windward has sold MARINT to security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, she said.

Topics: Homeland Security, MaritimePort Security, Shipbuilding

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