ting radar and communications systems, cabling and
communications links to operate, would require no
extra work on the part of the crew.
Lockheed officials said that another aspect of the
experiment will be to see how “real time,” or instantaneous, the data needs to be by changing the frequency
they use to transmit data back to shore.
The black box, or systems like it, can offer the U.S.
and other navies “presence by proxy,” said Steve Carmel,
senior vice president, maritime services for Maersk.
“We can be the Navy’s eyes and ears,” he said. “We
can’t do overt intelligence work, and I don’t think any
service would want us to, but we can allow them,
through us, to see what we see. And, frequently, it’s going
to be heck of a lot better than anything they see.”
One hurdle the entire idea of collecting maritime
data via merchant ships faces is that merchant shippers
have trade secrets they would like to keep to themselves. Constantly broadcasting their whereabouts
could blunt any competitive edge a shipper might have.
“We’ve got to be careful to protect the commercial
entities because they have competitive issues,” said
Metcalf. “We’re trying to find the edge between what
invigorates and informs and helps
people, helps security and safety
without inadvertently creating
problems with commerce.”
Metcalf gave the example of “spot
shippers,” who may sell their cargo
at any number of places along a
route, depending on market conditions and availability of buyers. A
ship full of bananas from South
America, for example, might be
heading for New York, but along the
coast of the United States get routed
to Miami to sell the bananas there.
“It’ll just change course right
then,” said Metcalf. “Halfway up
the coast, it’ll turn around and start
back. They don’t want other banana
haulers to know they just shifted
gears and they’re going to Miami.
They want to get to Miami first.”
The challenge for the U.S. Navy
and Coast Guard, Metcalf said, is
trying to understand whether this
sort of behavior is anomalous.
“When should I have my attention drawn to the fact that that
banana boat just did a U-turn 20
miles off the coast of the United
States?” he said. “[A lot of] time
and energy is spent pulling over a
guy you think might be a bad guy, and in reality, he’s
just doing his business.”
Carmel said that after the trial run on the four
Maersk ships, some “trampers” in Africa would be
next up for possible testing, provided things go well on
the first round from a technological standpoint and
that the data collected is actually useful.
“If you multiply the amount of data we could collect
across just even Maersk, it can change the paradigm of
what is the norm in the maritime commons with any
ship anywhere, picking up whatever’s around it and
just telling the world, ‘Here I am and here’s everybody
around me.’ And you multiply that [by more shipping
lines] and you’ve got a whole framework of information and transparency unlike we’ve ever had before.”
Carmel noted that “it’s well known that a large
chunk of AIS data is wrong, upwards of 30 percent.”
AIS, initially, was an anti-collision tool and not meant
to be used for maritime domain awareness. In 2004, the
International Maritime Organization (IMO) made AIS a
requirement for all vessels of more than 300 metric tons.
However, there is no enforcement or punishment, especially on the high seas, said Carmel. The only potential
The U.S. Navy and other agencies are testing new technologies that take
advantage of the information-gathering possibilities of commercial shipping to
provide better domain awareness around the world. Shown here during transit is the K Line American Ltd. container ship Venice Bridge.