Tracking pirate ships indulging in illegal activities on international waters is a huge global concern, but help is now at hand. A French firm has developed a technology to detect ships that are flouting the law.
These ships expertise in dodging the law enforcers by remaining out of sight. They steal millions of tonnes of fish each year. Reports have estimated this huge economic loss at nearly 10 billion dollars.
A French start-up, UnseenLabs, founded by Clement Galic and Jonathan Galic is now tracking ocean traffic to fight illegal fishing and piracy.
UnseenLabs is using electromagnetic intelligence from space: a dedicated maritime surveillance service
Recently, in one of its tweets, the World Economic Forum highlighted the issue of illegal fishing and pointed at the solution devised by Unseen Labs.
According to the official web page of Unseen Labs, “Sea works as a means of transportation for around 90% of goods; new maritime routes are opening up and pirate ships and illegal vessels are present. All ships must do is to cut its embedded activity beacon to vanish from surveillance screens. The innovative electromagnetic technology developed by UnseenLabs enables tracking of such vessels, anywhere and at any time.”
Such illegal fishing poses a huge threat to the food supply chain on which billions of people depend for their livelihood. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing defeats governments’ efforts to manage their resources and it undercuts the millions of fishers who are playing by the rules.
IUU fishing is a human rights crisis
The vessels that fish illegally often carry slaves who are subjected to inhuman conditions and brutality. Such vessels also pose a security threat. Vessels that fish illegally are often trafficking drugs or arms and laundering money. And, when illegal fishing destroys the food security and livelihoods of coastal countries, it creates fertile ground for the recruitment of terrorists. The exploration of pirate attacks in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea, for example, was linked to the surge in IUU fishing by foreign fleets decimating the stocks that sustained local communities.
Technological advances are now bringing new transparency to the sector. Major market actors are increasingly demanding proof of provenance.
Unseen Labs detect the electromagnetic waves emitted by every vessel. Using a constellation of satellites, each one no bigger than a shoebox, to provide real-time data even in poor visibility.
Rogue vessels evade surveillance by cutting out onboard transponders which leaves them free to hijack, dump waste, and fish illegally. The percentage of exploited fisheries whether partially or fully is nearly 90% of the world’s fisheries. According to an estimated, illegal fishing contribution is at 1 in every 5 fish. And it amounts to 26 million tonnes of fish stolen a year or 816 kgs of fish every second.
pirate ships’ problem is growing rapidly
Unseen’s CubeSats can also protect shipping by managing marine traffic to avoid collisions and protecting workers from piracy. Global instances of hijacking have dropped in recent years. But the problem is growing rapidly in west Africa and Latin America.
“The first three months of 2020 have registered a 24% increase in attacks as compared to last year. And there are fears COVID-19 could send this trend rocketing as governments struggle to police their waters. So, the solution is tracking 49,000 merchant ships in real-time along with more than 4 million commercial fishing vessels,” says the World Economic Forum.
Unseen’s CubeSats is drawing a clearer picture of the global marine activity to keep it safe, orderly, and sustainable.