Digital Approach to Maritime Piracy Issues
A Scottish company has launched onto the global shipping market the first comprehensive software product designed to combat the increasing problem of modern-day piracy at sea.
• The cost of piracy in 2011 is estimated at $7 billion / £4.46 billion (including increased security spend and ransom payments).
• The numbers of hostages and size of individual ransom demands also increased over the same period.
Marine MTS, based in Aberdeen, has developed Sentinel, which tracks user vessels remotely. As well as helping the user plot a safe route through problem areas, the software will automatically alert emergency or military services should something unusual happen on board. The new software will, for the first time, allow ships to be precision tracked from anywhere in the world using specially developed technology called Loc8.
Sentinel is a non-lethal, high tech solution, with additional covert capabilities which will not be advertised to ensure that users have the edge in their battle against piracy. All buyers will be vetted prior to having the product supplied to ensure that the technology stays on the ‘right side’.
Combining weather information and detailed security data, the software will allow the user to plot the optimum route to take to minimise the piracy threat. It can monitor any other vessels in the surrounding area, including their real time movements, with resulting data able to be viewed on land, at a head office or emergency response center for example. Any deviation in planned course or speed would automatically spark an alert to nominated security forces. Marine MTS is already planning enhanced features for future issues of the software.
With approximately 150 incidents of maritime piracy recorded globally so far this year, security is becoming an ever increasing issue, and some operators have understandably turned to armed response as a way of combating the problem. However, this is not without its own risks, and it is not supported by all Governments, including the British Government.
The Microplot 8 Sentinel software was developed by Marine MTS to provide a less aggressive solution that is as effective in prevention as it is in post incident support.
Wynne Edwards, Managing Director of Marine MTS, explains: “It’s hard to believe that current software on the market doesn’t track all the factors that might put a ship at risk, but that’s the case. Sentinel allows the user vessel to be monitored from a land base anywhere in the world, so that no matter where the ship is, its operator or owner can foresee problems that the on-board crew may not be in a position to spot, or communicate.
“Until now, the answer to anti-piracy has involved increasing armed presence on board vessels. This can escalate the problem in the long term, as data suggests that pirates are undeterred by this greater risk, and merely respond by ‘upping their game’ – given that the reward is still considerable. Increased vigilance via technology is a proactive approach that can become a long term option.”