Directions Media (DM): What sort of location technology is typically aboard a transport vessel? Is most of this geared toward ensuring the vessel travels the correct path, avoiding obstacles and bad weather?
Carlton van Putten (CP): That is correct. GPS is used for on-board navigation and not for position reporting. New [International Maritime Organization] guidelines for Long Range Identification and Tracking System (LRITs) for vessel tracking have been imposed for this year but many have not yet implemented.
DM: What can be added or how can that core technology be enhanced to aid in prevention of and response to pirate activity?
CP: Pirate attacks cannot be prevented, really. But many vessels are implementing technologies to report a "silent alarm" from the control room or other secret locations on the vessel. These Mayday alerts are much like a panic button that a bank teller might use and can be routed to the appropriate authorities in order to dispatch immediate assistance. With these mayday alerts response time can be improved due to precise GPS reporting.
DM: Do real time and historical geospatial datasets of pirate activity exist? Are they helpful in determining planned routes or updating them once at sea?
CP: Maritime operators have done a lot to try to out smart these guys but every measure has so far been met with a counter measure. Operators do not really have enough security personnel to ward off an attack. The best hope is to notify authorities.
DM: Do efforts to prevent/respond to pirate attacks draw on the experience of similar efforts toward crime on land? What are the key differences?
CP: There was a recent documentary on pirate attacks which pointed out that operating on water presents an entirely different set of challenges to crime fighting compared to land. Much of what has been proven to be effective on terra firma has to be rethought and reworked for the ocean because of the logistical difficulties of maneuvering on the open ocean. The element of surprise, which is so important in land-based crime fighting, is almost non-existent as all potential encroachments to a vessel are in the open.
DM: What single location tech product or service (existing or imagined) aboard every vessel would make the biggest difference in protecting crew and cargo from pirates?
CP: Any security measures taken for a vessel to defend itself will be met with countermeasures and potentially put the crew in more danger. Early detection and notification is the best chance of fending off an attack. A GPS tracking and alerting system with real time reporting and alerting is a sound approach to addressing this ongoing problem.