Vessel tracking data can be used to optimise shipping and enhance navigation, but other technologies are being developed for when AIS is switched off
Automatic Identification System (AIS) data is increasingly being used to improve fleet performance and for vessel optimisation. AIS data for the ship’s position during a voyage is accurate information useful for optimising operations, lowering costs and reducing emissions.
ZeroNorth formed a partnership with global satellite operator Spire Maritime in Q1 2021 to use maritime AIS and weather information for its Optimise solution to deliver actionable insights to tramp shipping operators.
“This puts invaluable insights into the hands of users to drive greater efficiency and reduce emissions,” says ZeroNorth chief executive Søren Meyer. “It reveals powerful insights generated by combining high-quality data and the most advanced algorithms,” he tells Riviera Maritime Media.
Spires’s weather forecast and shipping route data is fed into ZeroNorth’s Optimise through a secure application programming interface (API) to further strengthen the platform’s data offering.
“This information provides users with greater accessibility to insights and real-time recommendations on optimal operating speeds and estimated time of arrival,” says Mr Meyer.
“This in turn influences emissions reduction and fuel consumption, increasing revenue for tramp shipping operators and owners.”
Due to the variability of maritime data, deriving meaningful business decisions without advanced solutions that can look at information from multiple sources is significantly more challenging.
“Our partnership with Spire shows what can be achieved when data and algorithms are united around the mission of improving sustainability and increasing revenue,” says Mr Meyer.
In the year since ZeroNorth was launched, more than 1,500 vessels have committed to using Optimise.
“We estimate that in the next five years, the software could help save the industry some US$6Bn, with the goal of increasing the number of vessels to 6,000,” says Mr Meyer. “Shipping is becoming increasingly interconnected and digitalised, and it is clear shipping’s vast under-explored data resources hold the answer to many challenges facing tramp shipping operators and owners,” he says. AIS data will be a key source for the shipping industry’s drive to reduce emissions.
“The next few years will be instrumental if shipping is to unlock the digital insights it requires to meet the needs of the future,” says Mr Meyer, “and, critically, drive immediate action on the existential challenge of decarbonisation. This challenge is so vast, we need to include data insights as part of our collective strategy.”
Spire provides satellite, terrestrial and dynamic AIS data and weather information from remote sensing technologies such as radio occultation from its growing satellite constellation. These record temperature, humidity and pressure information across the globe.
Satellite AIS data from exactEarth, Iridium and Orbcomm is also used to track vessels across the world. But this relies on vessels keeping AIS equipment turned on.
Even if they have switched off AIS, there are methods of detecting and tracking these vessels.
The Government of Canada is working with MDA and exactEarth on the Dark Vessel Detection (DVD) programme to identify illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
For this, exactEarth will provide advanced satellite-AIS data to support pilot trials of the DVD programme.
MDA vice president for geo-intelligence Minda Suchan says this information will be combined with other satellite-derived data, “like RADARSAT-2 – an important part in identifying dark targets and tackling this global challenge”.
“Thanks to the Government of Canada and our partners, these types of vessels are going to have much more difficulty avoiding detection in the future,” she says.
This tackles a global issue that is damaging marine environments and devastating fishing stocks. “exactEarth’s advanced satellite-AIS and small vessel tracking capabilities provide an important and comprehensive real-time information source in helping to detect and locate vessels that may be engaged in this type of illegal behaviour,” says exactEarth president and chief executive Peter Mabson.
Kleos Space has also developed technology for tracking vessels that have turned off their AIS. It commissioned Scouting Mission satellites in Q1 2021 after they were launched in November 2020 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Chennai, India, aboard PSLV C49.
These satellites use radio frequency to detect vessel movements. Kleos Space chief executive Andy Bowyer expects this data will be delivered to authorities to “address real-world maritime challenges, including piracy, drug and people smuggling, and illegal fishing.”
Kleos is working on second and third clusters of similar satellites to boost its vessel reconnaissance technology. In March, it confirmed its Polar Vigilance Mission (KSF1) four-satellite cluster completed hardware-critical review milestones for a launch mid-year on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle.
“These satellites will complement the coverage of our Scouting Mission satellites with additional revisit rates over crucial maritime areas,” says Mr Bowyer. KSFI satellites will be launched into a 500-600 km sun-synchronous orbit. A third satellite cluster is for the polar patrol mission.
Despite the potential for dark vessel traffic, AIS vessel tracking capabilities were boosted in 2019 with the commissioning of Iridium’s Next constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Along with L-band communications, they have AIS payloads producing huge volumes of vessel tracking data.
This augments the data available from Orbcomm’s constellation for AIS and IoT. In March, Global Ocean Security Technologies (GOST), selected Orbcomm to upgrade its global vessel tracking and security. New Jersey, US-headquartered GOST is using Orbcomm’s terminal, powered by the IsatData Pro (IDP) satellite network, for reliable vessel tracking, monitoring and surveillance. GOST expects to complete the initial deployment of satellite terminals in Q2 2021 and plans to significantly extend the deployment by December 2021.
In October 2020, Orbcomm and Inmarsat extended their collaboration in IoT and tracking technology by developing OGx services with 40-times faster data rates than the current IDP service. OGx services are scheduled to be available in 2022 when Inmarsat’s sixth-generation constellation is commissioned.