Many film buffs have seen the 2013 feature, “Captain Phillips;” A film that depicts the April 2009 capture of the U.S. container ship, Maersk Alabama, by Somali pirates. During this ship takeover, the pirates sought to retain leadership over the crew and make millions off of the ship and its cargo on the black market.
While this cinematic production is largely entertaining, most viewers are unable to directly relate to the experiences presented, ones that can be a reality for both cargo ship captains and crew members. For the individuals working these ships or traveling across open waters, they know too well that this film presents an unfortunate truth—piracy is a real issue.
“Between January 1 and April, pirates and oil thieves carried out 30 attacks on our waterways, which 16 of these attacks were successful,” the Chief of Naval Staff of the Nigerian Navy, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, said at the launch of the operation, codenamed: “Tsare Teku II,” in Onne, Rivers State, according to Today.
In an attempt to help eliminate the instances of piracy across the oceans, the international mapping company ESRI, which employs high accredited employers like retired Navy captains, has begun to capitalize on the predictability of seizure with help from its ArcGIS technology. According to Tech Insider, this technology is now capable of predicting pirate attacks.
This innovation works by pulling together reams of data to create a continuously updated map of what sports are the most predictable spots for pirates to strike. To identify these probable locations, data is compiled on where all ships are located, where pirates frequent and what the weather is currently like in the area of question. Proven advantageous, ESRI’s technology is already being used by the United States Navy, shipping companies, and law enforcement agencies.
This technology can make a big difference in the world of piracy not only through its ability to predict potential attacks but also because in the event of an attack it enables captains to navigate alternative routes and also to increase the ship’s speed as a result. Considering that most pirate ships stemming from the East are low-cost vessels, this makes it increasingly challenging for these pirates to keep up with the targeted, commercialized ships.
“If you think about it, the wind, waves, and sea state — all those things are truly observable by the pirate standing on the beach,” Curt Hammill, a retired Navy captain who spent 27 years serving the United States, told Tech Insider. “With his limited resources, he’s able to draw that data into his nautical mind and make a decision whether or not he’s going to risk it to go out and pirate. If that data is something he can sense, then it’s something we can sense, or — even better — predict.”
The ability to predict these attacks will ultimately offer shipping companies are cargo providers a way to save billions. According to the most up-to-date State of Maritime Piracy report, piracy currently costs the world over $1 billion annually. Aside from big data usage to help retain investments, this GIS technology will hopefully also prevent attacks, hostages, and deaths in years to come.