Vessel tracking worldwide will be enhanced through extended services and new satellites and products
Stakeholders in the maritime sector can use automatic identification system (AIS) data for more applications through investment in satellites, hardware and services.
AIS is used for ship tracking and navigational safety, while data analytics through services such as MarineTraffic generates actionable maritime intelligence.
This information and intelligence will be available to stakeholders for another three years after MarineTraffic extended its contract to use AIS data from Orbcomm. This will enable users to track real-time and historical movements of ships, and their arrivals and departures in ports worldwide.
Vessel AIS information is derived from Orbcomm’s satellite constellation and land-based receiving stations. Orbcomm intends to expand its satellite coverage before the end of 2021 when it launches two of its next-generation AIS CubeSats to expand its AIS coverage, increase visibility to smaller Class B ships and extend its AIS coverage with a polar footprint when commissioned.
The following year, Orbcomm expects the launch of new satellites to provide maritime communications over the VHF Data Exchange System (VDES). It is working with AAC Clyde Space and Saab to develop and launch the VDES satellites initially for a regional service, from 2022, but eventually with global coverage.
MarineTraffic said its information helps government and commercial customers enable maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, environmental monitoring and maritime intelligence applications.
“We look forward to working with Orbcomm as we continue to provide our global customers with digital maritime solutions that improve visibility, safety, compliance and operational efficiency at sea,” said MarineTraffic chief executive Demitris Memos.
These services will be expanded during the next three years to include internet-of-things (IoT) data transferred from vessels over Orbcomm’s satellites.
“As we collaborate on the next phase of our partnership, MarineTraffic will be able to leverage our IoT solutions to enhance the end-to-end view of the global supply chain,” said Orbcomm senior vice president and general manager for government and AIS Greg Flessate.
exactEarth is another provider of AIS data with a second-generation satellite constellation. According to its president and chief executive Peter Mabson, exactEarth has reduced its annual costs and improved margins by selling its first-generation satellite assets to Myriota during Q3 2020.
“At quarter-end, we completed the sale of selected satellites and assets to Myriota, which will reduce annual costs to the business of approximately US$1M per year and will contribute to margin expansion going forward,” he said earlier this month.
“In Q3 we made strong gains on our strategy to further increase our top line and deliver margin expansion to capitalise on the compelling growth opportunity in front of us,” said Mr Mabson. He said there was “interest in premium satellite-AIS data service exactView RT”.
Another vessel tracking data provider Spire Global has formed strategic partnerships with agencies and logistics providers in 2020. It operates more than 100 mini satellites providing data worldwide for weather, maritime, and aviation sectors. Spire chief executive Peter Platzer said the company had created an industry standard in the commercial small, smart satellites.
He said Spire had formed strategic partnerships this year with the European Space Agency, US National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Amazon.
Investment in satellites is closing any gaps in AIS coverage. But if vessels turn off their AIS transponders, they can disappear from tracking applications.
Kleos Space is looking to remedy this issue through investing in satellites that track vessels using the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. Its first satellites for space-powered RF reconnaissance of ships are expected to be launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation from Chennai, India, in November 2020.
This first cluster of four satellites will detect and geolocate maritime RF transmissions for vessel tracking. They will be in a 37° inclination orbit, covering important shipping regions for defence and security customers including the Middle East, South China Sea, the Australian coast, the Caribbean, Americas coastlines and the east and west African coasts.
On 15 October, Kleos Space’s launch team arrived in India to prepare for imminent loading on to the PSLV launch vehicle.
Fishing vessel tracking
In the fishing sector, other technology can be used for tracking and monitoring vessels. On 16 October, Al Yah Satellite Communication subsidiary Thuraya launched a fishing vessel monitoring and tracking service alongside FrontM. Thuraya SatTrack is offered as part of Thuraya’s SeaLite maritime services and uses the MarineStar hardware.
SatTrack is a low-cost subscription service for interactive, real-time fleet tracking to monitor vessels. It also provides detailed maps, weather layers and customised alerts with position reporting within Thuraya’s network that covers 80% of the world’s fishing hubs.
Thuraya expects this service will contribute to sustainable fisheries by improving compliance with national and international regulations.
Subscribers can use it to remotely exchange data, establish and monitor geofences, access fish-catch reports in real time and use SatTrack’s alert mechanism for search and rescue operations.
Key beneficiaries include civil defence agencies and organisations with varied maritime interests such as police, port authorities, coastguards, transport authorities, coastal surveillance bodies, and agriculture and fisheries ministries.
Inmarsat and Cobham Satcom announced on 15 October they were assisting the Maldives in monitoring fishing vessels as part of its Sustainable Fisheries Resources Development Project. Under this agreement, more than 700 fishing vessels will be fitted with Cobham’s Sailor Fleet One satellite communications hardware for connectivity and vessel monitoring.
These terminals will enable Maldives Ministry of Fisheries to monitor vessel movements and catches using L-band communications over the existing Inmarsat-4 satellite constellation.
This five-year contract to connect 732 fishing vessels active in the Maldives Economic Exclusion Zone comes after a trial of Sailor Fleet One aboard 15 boats.
Maldives’ Sustainable Fisheries Resource Development Project was followed in 2019 by the Maldives Fisheries Act, which bans several forms of unsustainable fishing gear such as purse seine, trawl nets and gills nets and envisages granting licences only to vessels offering rea-time tracking and those registered only in the Maldives.
Fleet One will support electronic catch documentation and traceability to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. The Fisheries Act also formalises fishermen’s entitlements to pensions, training and connectivity to emergency services.
“The vessel monitoring system project confirms the leadership role that the Maldives continues to play in sustainable fishing and in sustaining the blue economy long term,” said Maldives fisheries minister Zaha Waheed.
“It puts the maritime broadband infrastructure in place to monitor and manage operations, but also to support the welfare of those working at sea,” she said.
“Successful implementation of the project would mean that Maldives fulfils and goes beyond the requirements established through the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission,” she added.
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