Maritime Awareness: Preserving Safety on the Seas

Humans tend to take water for granted. It covers more than 70 percent of our planet and makes up about 60 percent of our bodies. We see it everywhere — in lakes, in rivers, in oceans, in pools, flowing from the faucets in our kitchens, and falling from the sky when it rains.

But how much do we really know about water? What’s going on in the ocean right now? How many boats are traveling today, and where are they going? What are they carrying? Will they meet up with any other vessels along the way?

This kind of information is part of a field of knowledge called maritime awareness, and it has major financial and security implications. According to the International Maritime Organization, more than 90 percent of the world’s trade goods are carried by sea. Shipping is incredibly valuable to the global economy, so it’s important to understand how and why the seas are monitored, and the impact that monitoring has on the daily lives of the Earth’s citizens.

Monitoring Ship Movements at Sea with AIS Data

One key component of maritime awareness is the automatic identification system (AIS), a tracking method that uses transponders on ships. It provides each vessel’s unique identification, position, course, and speed so that maritime authorities can monitor movements on the water.

AIS is an international broadcast system that ships use to communicate their locations to other vessels and assist with navigation. Data from AIS is used daily to exchange information and create situational awareness that helps prevent collisions.

But AIS also has applications in the intelligence community. AIS enables monitoring entities to detect anomalies in ships’ travel patterns, plan countermeasures when illicit activity is suspected, and maintain information dominance, which helps ensure safety for all not only in the sea, but on land as well.

Follow along on the Sensing Change Blog as this series covers these topics and more related to the world of maritime awareness.