Timothy Compston discovers that more and more ships are turning off their AIS (Automatic Identification System) or even switching their identities completely to sail under the security radar.
When employed properly AIS (Automatic Identification System), which provides a unique identification for each vessel as well as its position, course and speed, is invaluable from a safety and operational perspective as part of collision avoidance and traffic monitoring. Of course, no system is fool-proof and, unfortunately, a growing number of ships are making waves by circumventing AIS to disguise their nefarious activities, raising real security concerns as they change identity or simply disappear.
The reasons why ships may decide to stop their AIS transmitting – or attempt to alter the associated data – so distorting the maritime picture, are many and varied. In some cases, the ship owners may be trying to break economic sanctions, while others are engaged in illegal fishing, people or drug smuggling, carrying arms shipments or even in extreme cases assisting terrorists.
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