Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Arctic Sea Hijackers Arrested

Tradewinds and Lloyds List report authorities have arrested up to eight suspects related to the missing Russian ship, Arctic Sea. The missing ship was located off the coast of West Africa on Monday.

According to news reports the suspects included Russians, Estonians, and Latvians. The Russian Navy has transferred the suspects from the Arctic Sea to a Russian naval vessel. The suspects ordered the crew to turn off all navigational and ship tracking equipment reported Lloyd's List.

What Tracking Equipment Did They Have?

The Arctic Sea most likely had two types of tracking equipment. We know the vessel was not enrolled in Amver. The first type of tracking equipment the Arctic Sea likely had is an Automatic Identification System, or AIS. What is AIS? According to the United States Coast Guard Navigation Center,

Picture a shipboard display system (e.g. radar, ECDIS, chart plotter, etc.) with overlaid electronic chart data that includes a mark for every significant ship within radio range; each as desired with a velocity vector (indicating speed and heading). Each ship "mark" could reflect the actual size of the ship, with position to GPS or differential GPS accuracy. By "clicking" on a ship mark, you could learn the ship name, course and speed, classification, call sign, registration number, MMSI, and other information. Maneuvering information, closest point of approach (CPA), time to closest point of approach (TCPA) and other navigation information, more accurate and more timely than information available from an automatic radar plotting aid, could also be available. Display information previously available only to modern Vessel Traffic Service operations centers could now be available to every AIS-equipped ship.
The Navigation Center also has a great list of frequently asked questions about AIS.

In addition to AIS, the Arctic Sea may have also been reporting through a newly implemented International Maritime Organization scheme called Long Range Identification and Tracking, or LRIT. While still a new program, LRIT will allow flag states, port states, or coastal states vessel position information for security and safety purposes. How does that differ from Amver? You can read that debate here.

Do you think it was pirates?

Photo credit: Fotolia
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