Yes, Oceanographers Can Help Predict Piracy Attacks

Press Release
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The US Naval Meteorology & Oceanography Command named a 2013 Computerworld Honors Laureate for its counter-piracy predictive modelling.

The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NAVMETOCCOM) received the award for a modeling capability developed by Naval oceanographers at Stennis Space Center that predicts the likelihood of pirate attacks.

IDG's Computerworld Honors Program selected NAVMETOCCOM as a 2013 Laureate in the field of Safety and Security for its development of its Pirate Attack Risk Surface (PARS).

The PARS model produces a forecast of shipping vulnerability due to piracy at a certain latitude, longitude, and time.

A few short months before Somali pirates hijacked the U.S.-flagged MV Maersk Alabama in 2009, NAVMETOCCOM operators were asked to assist in the fight against piracy, which had been on the rise in the Somali Basin due to government instability in the region. Pirate attacks are a threat to the United States' national security and foreign policy, and they impact maritime safety, disrupt shipping and ultimately cost the world's economy billions of dollars annually. 

Within two weeks, the command had developed the framework of the first-generation Piracy Performance Surface (PPS) model, which produced maps of probability of attack based on how environmental conditions influenced pirate small boat operations.

The success of the PPS model led to development of a more advanced anti-piracy model, the award-winning Pirate Attack Risk Surface (PARS). While the first-generation PPS primarily focused on environmental factors, PARS combines shipping information, environmental data, pirate locations, pirate operating procedures, and predicted pirate behaviors into a cohesive forecasting environment.

"PARS is groundbreaking," said Rear Adm. Brown. "This is the only known Navy product that, instead of treating environmental data separately, fuses it with multidisciplinary information within a single model." 

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