How SAR can help seaport and maritime logistics?
The maritime industry experienced a huge storm in 2020, which indicated the need to accelerate its digital transformation on many levels. The surge in trade after the first wave of the pandemic, the Suez Canal blockage, and U.S. West Coast port congestion made ports experienced a record number of vessels waiting for terminal space early in the year.
Port congestion and the resulting disruptions in global supply chains have been a constant in recent times and pose unexpected, big challenges. Lars Jensen, the founder of container consultancy Vespucci Maritime, has estimated that 10% of the world’s shipping capacity has been taken out due to port congestion issues.
According to IHS Markit, the waiting time of ships in the port has doubled since 2019, and the average number of hours spent by container ships in the port in May 2021 rises to 92 hours in America, 69 hours in Northern European ports, and 40 hours in East Asia.
Global waterways become more complex and less predictable. A container congestion crisis has been brewing off the coast of Southern California for many months.
Digital era of shipping
About 20 years ago, the digital era of shipping has started. Many shipowners monitor ships through AIS, RF, or VMS services and more and more ports monitor their occupancy with the use of remote systems.
The main problem with this is that vessel detection technology was designed for vessels, and the limitations, such as consciously trying to turn off these technologies are so many, that the general maritime awareness image is extremely distorted. AIS signals can also be spotty, which is not uncommon, and the signals in ports are crowded and oftentimes interfere with each other. In many cases, the information provided is not clear, with it often being distorted, left out, or incomplete.
How can satellite SAR-based observations support port development?
Future requirements for safe, environmentally friendly, and efficient trade operations, require new technologies in every part of the supply chain.
The best technology for vessel detection and port monitoring comes from satellite imagery, specifically Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). SAR is an all-weather and all-condition technology, which is necessary when you take into consideration the point in time which will be monitored, such as the foggy or rainy season, or the size of the area to be observed.
Satellite data analytics are providing seaport and maritime logistic companies with innovative solutions to respond faster and more efficiently to major changes and unexpected situations that cause serious costs. These tools allow for controlling of supply chains remotely and seeing how busy the ports are, from anywhere and in any weather conditions. This allows port personnel to focus on other important activities that generate direct income.
You’re probably now wondering, how can you begin to take advantage of this data? Working with SAR imagery as an end-user is not easy and simple for many reasons, especially access and expertise. You need to know how to get the imagery and what to do with it. That’s our role. We make SAR easy. We are TRANSLATOR of complex radar-based data into actionable information and we are building solutions that directly reply to our customers’ needs. If you’re interested, email us at email@example.com. We’d love to have a chat.
Fishing is a huge business that brings big economic benefits, while also having an important role to play in providing jobs and food security. The global seafood market is estimated to reach about $138,7 billion by 2027. Despite its international importance, the industry remains a mystery to a large extent.
Limited information and data on vessels’ locations, places where they operate, their owners, the amounts of their catches, and how these stocks are transported is huge worldwide and leads to illegal activities such as piracy, smuggling, or illegal fishing.
The problem of illegal fishing and its impact on the global seafood market
The global seafood market depends on a global fleet of fishing vessels. From trawlers to seiners and small boats, fishing vessels come in many sizes, designs, and destinations. This diversity and location makes the industry extremely complicated and no one is able to fully estimate the exact number of vessels, let alone their activities and challenges related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing).
Global estimates suggest a minimum of 20% of seafood worldwide is caught illegally, representing economic losses between $10 to $23 billion and 11 to 25 million metric tons of fish. However, as this is a dark market, and many illegal activities take place at night or under the cover of difficult weather conditions, estimates are underestimated.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (SCS)
More than 50% of the fishing vessels in the world are estimated to operate in the South China Sea. This is an area of around 3.8 million square kilometers and is bordered by 12 countries/territories. These places are home to two billion people and represent some of the fastest developing economies of the world. It is also one of the top five most productive fishing zones in the world in terms of total annual marine production, and one of the zones the most affected by illegal fishing. The South China Sea is currently almost 90% overfished and a very high percentage of fish stocks are used.
It is practically impossible to track all fishing activities in the SCS territories due to territorial disputes, and difficulties in identifying boats. Maritime activity is usually followed on the basis of Automatic Identification System (AIS), Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), or Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) technologies. This data shows a significant amount of catches in the areas which are in question, but their detections are not accurate enough to fight illegal activities.
What are the limitations?
Although the mentioned data that is available is good and relatively inexpensive, the possibility for AIS / VMS sensor tampering is quite common. Many fishing vessels don’t have these systems because they are small and they are under no obligation to use them. Conversely, they may be going dark to intentionally turn off the signal and hide their IUU fishing activities. Many dark vessels are reporting false identification or are reporting a series of false locations in order to distort maritime situational awareness.
Data from meteorological satellite sensors (VIIRS) are generally open access, are available in near real-time, and have long-term archives, but a major disadvantage is their spatial resolution at the level 750×750 m, which is too inaccurate when it comes to vessel detection.
Discover vessels going dark
Thanks to international cooperation and new technology, we can make progress in tracking IUU fishing. Coastal states and the industry are working to improve the transparency and accountability of illegal maritime phenomena. Control systems such as AIS, VMS, or satellite optical images can be significantly supported by satellite radar-based imagery accompanied by AI-based vessel detection and classification algorithms, which fills the gaps in understanding the problem and increases transparency in the fisheries sector.
By using satellite-based SAR imagery you can get a more detailed analysis of fishing activity and improve the traceability of vessels, regardless of weather conditions and or time of day. The effectiveness of actions to combat illegal fishing depend on the quality of the data, the ease of obtaining it and our ability to interpret it. SAR data with centimeter accuracy is already available on the market, new opportunities allow the development of AI-based solutions, and soon, a new era of SAR will come, where commercial access to data will be possible and simple.
So let’s make SAR easy and improve the monitoring of seas and oceans. It will be crucial if we hope to save our fisheries and our oceans. If you would like to know more about SATIM, our technology, or products please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oil theft labyrinth in Niger Delta and SAR technology
The world drives over a third of its total energy production from oil. As a result, the countries that control the world’s oil reserves often have economic power. Nigeria holds 36,97 billion barrels of proven oil reserves as of 2018, ranking 10th in the world and accounting for about 3,1% of the world’s total oil reserves.
In early 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria determined oil production to be well below the average production before the coronavirus pandemic. According to OPEC’s latest data, issues such as vandalism, crude oil theft, and some offshore issues, including insecurity, regulations, and fines, are responsible for the decline.
The dark side of the fuel market
The impact of oil theft and smuggling are significant and wide-ranging, and always result in huge economic loss, human casualties, and extreme environmental pollution.
As one might guess, the highest level of oil theft occurs in countries with large oil reserves and in countries where the complicity among government agencies and security forces with criminal enterprises is big, without proper control measures being in place. The most famous example is Nigeria and its labyrinth of the Niger Delta.
According to a report presented by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, Nigeria lost about $8.9 million daily, which sums up to $7.2 billion over the two-year period (2016-2017), which is about 15 percent of the total number of barrels produced per day.
Oil crime, in all its forms, is a significant threat not only to local and regional prosperity but also to global stability and security. The instability in the delta region is one of the factors driving the rise in global oil prices.
How does oil theft happen?
The infamous labyrinth of the Niger Delta is the perfect place for illegal activities to go undetected. Many nooks and crannies, a complex network of hidden channels and secret connections make it possible to steal crude oil, on a large scale, in many ways.
Oil is already being stolen not by tons but by tankers. An example is the Akshay tanker cruise at the end of 2012, which was stopped on the basis of the illegal export of this raw material.
However, over the past ten years, the system of theft and illegal exports has changed. But, the methods and means of transporting illegal oil remain the same. Oil is exported by ships in trace amounts, transported on small vessels or transported to ships that are traditionally considered to be 'reputable’, and all of this is happening in the muddy regions of the Niger Delta.
How can satellite imagery reveal what’s really happening in Niger Delta?
Fuel theft in Nigeria is so systemic that it will not be stopped any time soon. However, there are some tools and solutions that might help to counter oil theft.
Using the SAR satellite technology, we are able to obtain information about the vessel’s activity and maritime changes. Tankers and small vessels conducting ‘dark operations’, can be spotted using satellite-based SAR imagery, regardless of weather conditions or time of day, and reduces the risk of robberies and illegal activities around the world.
In September 2020, SATIM analyzed vessel activity in the Niger Delta. This analysis was aimed at ship detection and recognition based on a SAR image provided by ICEYE. We have found examples of ships raising concerns about possible illegal activities. In the analysis, we have focused only on the water-borne objects. The analysis was conducted based on our Artificial Intelligence algorithms trained for vessel detection and classification on any satellite SAR data.
As a result of the analysis,143 objects were detected and assigned into categories. 47 of them were classified as vessels. If a vessel was at least 50m long, then the classification process was performed.
Large and medium vessels were subjected to the recognition process (30 objects). Each of these vessels was labeled to one of the types (e.g Tankers, Oil Products tankers, Cargo barge) based on its similarity to signatures generated with our simulator.
8 Oil Products Tankers,
10 Cargo Barge,
2 Oil barge
2 Crude oil tankers.
Three vessels could not be properly recognized due to the lack of appropriate 3D models in the database. Our results were confronted with data from AIS. Only 5 of the detected vessels had an AIS signal.
We use satellite-based radar imagery to support our customers with the utmost care. We are now helping to build a great future where radar technology will provide benefits to people throughout different market sectors. We make SAR easy. If you’re interested, email us at email@example.com. We’d love to have a chat.
Shall one be required to make five phone calls and sign three documents to order SAR data?
The ongoing satellite SAR revolution is accelerating. Currently, there are over 50 SAR satellites providing radar imagery, which is more than double compared to 2018. But the data stream is not everything. We need to do more to make SAR operational and useful. It requires collaboration between SAR satellite operators and added value companies, as well as open and clear business models in order to provide real value to the end-users.
Four ICEYE’s SAR satellites flying in formation. Credit: LeoLabs
Imagine the following situation: There is a unified easy access to all civil and commercial satellite SAR data sources, the data is interoperable across different sensors, you can get hourly revisits over any place on Earth, latency is in minutes, and the product generation and results delivery is fully automatic. Doable? I believe that with the 4th era in SAR developments it is inevitable.
4th era in SAR
The creation of the first SAR sensor was incentivized by the military sector. The first airborne SAR sensors were developed in the 1960s by Lockheed Martin in the US. The second era was related to big, complex, and costly scientific and military SAR satellites. Started in the 1970s, again, by Lockheed, but also by NOAA and NASA JPL. This era somehow still continues today with the Sentinel-1, ALOS-2, or TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X satellites.
But it is being slowly replaced by the third era of microsatellites. This has been started by ICEYE, in 2018, and followed by others like Capella Space, Umbra, PredaSAR, iQPS or Synspective.
The upcoming fourth era will be related to new business models for SAR data and easy-to-access, effective, and operational added-value services based on that data. The upcoming fourth era will be related to new business models for SAR data and easy-to-access, effective, and operational added-value services based on that data.
What needs to happen?
SAR data can help in many different areas, but each of those areas requires different and deep expertise for added-value companies in order to succeed. You cannot be a “SAR” company. Instead, you need to be “a specific problem-solution” company using SAR. None of the SAR operators or downstream companies can cover all potential application areas, even if they would want to. ICEYE’s Flood Monitoring service is a great example of focused attention.
I fully agree with the words of Gabe Dominocelo, co-founder of Umbra, who said “As more sensors are launched and prices come down, we’re going to see the commercial market expand”. Lower prices are mandatory for commercial SAR-based services to find their place in the market. But it is also necessary for data providers to implement easier access to their data streams, e.g. through online API’s. Making five phone calls and signing three documents on the way shall not be necessary to order and acquire SAR data, if we want to target commercial markets.
But this already starts to change
Some of the above-mentioned SAR operators change that approach by implementing both new pricing models, as well as easy access mechanisms to their space infrastructure. Hopefully, the remaining operators will follow quickly, so that the vision of the 4th era of SAR will become real. Fingers crossed and make SAR easy!
Jacek Strzelczyk, CEO SATIM
ANOTHER YEAR OF OUR COMPANY’S EXISTENCE IS PASSING
We will be celebrating our 10th anniversary in a moment! Time really goes fast and there’s so much going on.
Our story began in 2012 when Stasia and Jacek – two enthusiasts of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology scientists from AGH University of Science and Technology decided to create the first Polish company that uses satellite radar imaging to help make better decisions, either business- or safety-related.
In the last years, we have experienced fantastic growth and development. We learned a lot and we had the opportunity to work and meet many amazing people and companies. Our strength is our people and values. Each team member is an integral part of the success in implementation of our company’s mission.
We have improved our products, defined the vision, and set our priorities and values that we want to accompany us in our daily work. We clearly set goals for action, short-term but also for the future, which allow us to focus on what is most important to us and implement our mission.
It was a long way from starting as a university spin-off, introducing the first EO-based, commercial product to the Polish market, participation in European programs, to at last (but not least) an international company, and building scalable SaaS products based on cost-effective new satellite SAR data sources. Now, we are building solutions that directly reply to our customers’ needs. We are TRANSLATOR of complex radar-based data into actionable information. We make SAR easy.
WE ARE ON FIRE!
Our team has grown from a two-person startup into a super-team of SAR analysts and business developers who motivate and support each other in their daily work. We strongly focus on the quality of our work, can-do attitude, team spirit, and self-development. As a result, now we are working towards the great future where satellite radar technology will provide benefits to people throughout different market sectors.
Now it’s time to start a new era of SAR data. Everything’s working well, so…stay tuned and read our blog!