MAPP - Piracy Prevention and Commercial Navigation in Insecure Water

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The increase in piracy incidents in areas such as the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea threatens life at sea and causes substantial cost to the shipping industry and governments as vessels transit through the High Risk Areas. Payment of ransoms, extra insurance premiums, armed guards and other security measures by the shipping industry and insurance companies as well as deployment of naval assets by flag states are some of the current methods in place to reduce the risk of piracy, however with large costs as a consequence. In this feasibility study, the potential of space based services for piracy prevention and commercial navigation in insecure waters are explored.


Objectives of the service

In sight of the growing piracy problem, this feasibility study called MAPP, for MAritime Piracy Prevention, has been launched to respond to an international need for improved situational awareness in the domain of piracy prevention. The study aims to investigate the technical feasibility and the economic viability of using space-based technologies in the fight against piracy. It will also build a roadmap for the future development of piracy prevention services building on enhanced information centres using improved data sharing among a range of stakeholders.


Users and their needs

The target users for this study are

  • Shipping companies
  • Situational awareness centres
  • Insurance companies

In post-attack situations, shipping companies and anti-piracy centres need to know: “Where is the ship?”. They need a tracking service that ensures the “integrity” of vessels’ locations and they need to enrich the “local” intelligence with “Earth observations” as soon as possible to best support rescue operations.

They are also looking for “fresh” and “local” situational information such as early warnings to best adapt voyages and anticipate deployment of protective measures at sea.

Service/ system concept

The ‘Keep in Sight’ service relies first on a hidden tracker installed onboard. This discreet, GNSS-free, autonomous equipment with a long battery lifetime will keep track of vessels in all circumstances and allow early detection of anomalous ship behaviour. The ARGOS satellite constellation offers an advanced “Doppler effect”-based positioning service which guarantees the location validity. This allows enriching the maritime picture with Earth Observation (EO) data at highest resolution.

 A “maritime crowd” reporting and information sharing service is a second option, still to be confirmed. A user-friendly interface will stimulate anonymous reporting through SatCom equipment to bring precious inputs to the shore to be processed into high value-added products and sent back to ships and their companies.

Space Added Value

Argos is a unique worldwide location and data collection system. The Doppler Effect positioning allow to locate ships with an accuracy of up to 250 m, it doesn’t require the implementation of a GPS receiver and offers very low energy consumption equipment design possibilities.

EO activated on-demand brings intelligence to detect non-cooperative surrounding targets around the attacked vessel to best understand the situation at sea best and plan the rescue and intervention operation.

Satellite communication (Inmarsat, Iridium, VSAT) is essential for data transmission over long distance when ships are at sea (terrestrial coverage along High Risk Areas is very poor). The crowd maritime service will fit with the lowest common denominator of existing on-board satcom capabilities.  In addition, the role of GNSS is to automatically geo-reference and tag the transmitted information.

Product Benefits

The essential expected benefit is the improvement to seafarers’ life at sea. A hidden tracker will provide a ship’s location to rescue the crew and save the cargo as soon as possible. In addition radar and optical images bring intelligence for the intervention. This ‘Keep in Sight’ service could have a dissuasive effect in the long term if pirates’ business is always disturbed after an attack.

The maritime crowd reporting will deliver advanced information to identify critical areas and to modify the ship’s route. Its concept could be a starting point to share additional information to improve security and safety at sea as part of an e-navigation demonstrator.

Product Features

The features of the proposed MAPP service aim to respond to the key users’ requirements: “Where are the bad guys?” and “Where is my attacked ship?”

This service improves the maritime picture in post-attack situations keeping track of the ship in all conditions, and tries to automate operations to reduce human resources whilst collecting important human intelligence; the study encompass the technical, economic and political limits that best respond to these needs.  

Key Issues

Following a pirates' attack, onboard communication equipment are disabled or destroyed. The vessel’s track is lost and the research area grows as time passes, making it difficult to deploy rescue assets efficiently. How to be sure of a ship’s location after an attack?

The lack of reporting on piracy incidents is a major issue, since there are no standardized, automated, friendly mechanisms to minimize captains’ reporting workload. In addition, shipping operators are reluctant to report about incidents that might be used out of context, resulting in commercial disadvantage. However, human detection is still the most valuable source of information about piracy. How to make reporting attractive? 

Current Status

The demonstrator phase to implement the ‘Keep in Sight’ service is going on and will be compteted in April 2017.

The maritime crowd service is a still of high interest but the business model and the on-going e-navigation standards are not mature enough to start a demonstration phase right now.  

Status Date

Updated: 23 October 2015 - Created: 15 February 2014