Case Studies

Multi-Source Tech Enhances Operational Readiness

One of the big problems for national intelligence, defense, and law enforcement organizations – as well as many others throughout the maritime ecosystem who are required to detect, identify and monitor vessels – is the HUGE amounts of data. 

For instance, smuggling detection requires understanding the regular vessel patterns of thousands of ships and their past behavioral history, current sanctions restrictions and evasion typologies, deceptive shipping practices, etc.

The maritime ecosystem changes quickly and maintaining operational readiness and strategic decision-making capabilities requires the right technology platform. Without an AI-powered solution, it is impossible to analyze hundreds of millions of data points to quickly arrive at an accurate risk prediction, and act upon it to mitigate exposure.  

The bottom line is that no one approach, or technology can serve as a single source of truth, monitor the entirety of the vast seas, and provide a holistic view of risk. Maritime domain awareness and putting dots on a map is not sufficient…because some of those dots represent ships that are NOT where they purport to be! Not all vessels that transmit are legit – rather than risking their vessels and cargo by “going dark,” today’s more sophisticated bad actors prefer to “hide in plain sight” by using techniques such as location (GNSS) manipulation. 

Windward, the leading Maritime AI™ company, understands the obstacles and the solutions to overcoming them. 

New Partnership

Maritime AI™ is the foundation for any effective solution, it transforms a sea of raw data into actionable insights. It is Windward’s responsibility to constantly look to enhance and improve the quality and range of the insights we provide to our customers and partners. That’s why we enable our users to integrate additional layers and location data to complete the risk picture. 

As part of this effort, Windward has partnered with the leading satellite data provider in the market, Spire Global, to supply its unique positional validation data to complete those missing pieces for vessels that have manipulated their position reports, or have gone dark.

Organizations, such as border security and intelligence units, benefit from satellite technology to detect ships, and search for suspicious maritime activities in near or distant waters. Windward’s platform now enables users to overlay locations from Spire’s AIS Position Validation (AIS PV) offering. 

This additional layer can help governmental organizations, detect ships, and search for suspicious maritime activities in near or distant waters.

Using advanced radio-frequency data , Spire’s AIS Position Validation capability independently calculates locations for vessels at the time of their AIS transmissions. These calculated locations can be used to validate a vessel’s reported position. This will be a game-changer for detecting deceptive shipping practices (DSPs).

Spotting Spoofing

An umbrella term called “spoofing” has been driving the maritime industry crazy with multiple interpretations. Within this concept, there are multiple tactics involving the use of various identities, transmitters, and even locations (global navigation satellite system – GNSS) manipulation methodologies that are growing at an exponential speed compared to previous deceptive shipping practices. 

Windward’s Maritime AI™ platform found a 12% increase in location (GNSS) manipulation during the first half of 2023 compared to the same period the year before, as well as an 82% increase compared to H1 2021. 

Location (GNSS) manipulation is the use of a machine-generated location/path to disguise the true location of the vessel. Multiple methods have been identified to carry out this deception, including false transmission onboard the vessel and third-party onshore accomplices.

The manipulation of vessels’ AIS-transmitted locations is a fast-growing trend and is starting to receive the attention of regulators such as OFAC, OFSI, EU and other international bodies setting sanctions guidance. The maritime ecosystem needs to follow the lead of the regulators and quickly awaken to the idea that things are a lot more complicated than they seem. It’s nowhere near as simple as merely screening for sanctions lists or detecting dark activity – although that is still relevant and necessary. The cat and mouse game continues to evolve at warp speed, with complicated deceptive practices and ‘unknown-unknown’ risks. 

The new AIS Position Validation data feed from Spire compiles another layer of data that enables Windward customers to display the calculated location of vessels that are manipulating their transmissions and better contextualize the vessels’ actual operations during the time of manipulation.

The estimation of a vessel’s area of operations during the time of the manipulation can be projected based on the vessel’s historical pattern of life, and the context of its whereabouts prior to the start of the manipulation. For example, a vessel manipulating its position in the Arabian Gulf, where it never visited or operated before, is most likely engaging in illegal smuggling activities.

In the case presented below, a VLCC was automatically flagged in the Windward system for manipulating its AIS and spoofing its location.

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When we overlay the vessel’s estimated locations provided by Spire’s technology onto the Windward map, we gain certainty of the vessel’s location. By contextualizing the vessel operations, Windward users can connect the location (GNSS) manipulation to a specific regime and evaluate it according to their operational strategy and targets.

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Shining a Light on the Darkness to Mitigate IUU

Before this partnership, dark vessel detection was an urban legend – some people whispered about it happening, but it was just not feasible to systematically track vessels that were not transmitting valid locations…until now.

Long distance fishing fleets have been operating in international waters for many years and some have engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.  

As shown in the sequence of activities below, foreign fishing vessels often operate on the borders of EEZs and international waters. Many disable their AIS positional information once they enter a country’s EEZ to harvest their fish illegally, in this case in Argentinian waters.

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When a vessel goes dark, or disables its GNSS input to the AIS device, the challenge is to collect reliable data that can be used to place the vessel in the EEZ, to prove it engaged in illegal activity.

When overlaying the below vessel’s historical path (in this case going back to 2016), it is shown that the vessel is avoiding operating in Argentina EEZ when transmitting its location.

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But the new data layer by Spire’s AIS Position Validation indicates the whereabouts of the vessel during its dark activity – starting on April 7 and ending on the 9th.

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According to the Spire’s AIS Position Validation, we can see it was operating in the Argentina EEZ while the vessel’s transmitted location was disabled.
By combining Windward’s behavioral analysis with the calculated locations, organizations can enhance and contextualize dark activities, and enforce local laws and regulations accordingly.

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Keeping You Covered

For years, Windward has been keeping its customers covered by automatically flagging and alerting them on deceptive shipping practices, allowing traders and shippers to complete their business and trades with confidence, and empowering government agencies with enhanced detection to prevent smuggling and terror activities. 

Now you can enhance this innovative AI base with satellite images and positional validation integration to go beyond the dot on the map and predict where to focus sensors and task forces, bringing tremendous efficiency and value. 

A platform-centric, vendor-agnostic approach, empowers users to easily integrate any positional data, SAR, or optical images; enhance coverage by using predictive insights and vessel behavior data; and identify illicit actors going beyond AIS disablement to conceal their activities. We’re talking about a single platform that can:

  • Automatically flag location (GNSS) manipulation (patent-pending model)
  • Perform dark vessel detection
  • Overlay imagery on a map with a vessel positions and activities layer

Start Benefiting From Multi-Source