Artificial Intelligence: How AI Watches For Pirates On The High Seas

October 26, 2020 | Artificial Intelligence, News

AI powers an unmanned, round-the-clock maritime anti-piracy system on the high seas.

A maritime anti-piracy system (MAPS) from a Singaporean engineering company uses AI to deliver fully automated piracy alerts to ocean-going vessels, particularly in pirate-infested waters such as near Somalia and the South China Seas.

The AgilTrack Maritime Anti-Piracy System (MAPS) from ST Engineering

Even in these modern times, maritime piracy is a serious and complex challenge to the security of ships, cargo, and personnel. Radar systems, even human lookouts, fail to detect the favorite modus operandi of pirates – the use of small, fast skiffs.  (Hellenic Shipping News)

“Low-profile, low-lying skiffs blend into the clutter of waves, and are tricky to detect by conventional maritime radar because they intermittently appear and disappear on the user interface,” writes Goh Wai Pheng, General Manager, Satcom & Sensor Systems, Electronics, ST Engineering. “Hence, the primary defense strategy of the ship is typically to deploy crew members on watch duty, scanning the sea waters around for “suspicious vessels” that may harbor pirates waiting in ambush.”

Unfortunately, humans do not see well in darkness, rain, and fog. Further, when tired, human lookouts may not be alert enough to spot the skiffs.

However, behavioral analysis and AI can learn and recognize suspicious activity patterns based on past incidents and records. AI learns to recognize movements typical to pirates (such as sudden changes in speed and direction, loitering, attempts to board). It also understands the difference to stationary buoys, fishing boats, or crowded sea lanes.

A maritime anti-piracy system can employ this intelligence to monitor data and motion in the vicinity of the vessel.


The AgilTrack MAPS from ST Engineering (SI: S63) uses a proprietary Track-Before-Detect technology that employs radar tracks and intelligent behavioral analysis algorithms to identify suspicious behavior before declaring it as a hostile vessel.

The unmanned system works round-the-clock and can be hooked up with CCTV cameras, searchlight beams, PA loud-hailing systems, on-ship alarms, and long-range acoustic devices.

The MAPS offers an early warning against an attack, giving crew members enough time to take defensive action.

Related Story: Israeli Shipping Co Deploys AI to Sniff Out Cargo Misdeclarations

Feature Image Credit: European Union Naval Force Somalia Operation (Flickr)

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