A real-time satellite-based surveillance of ships has gone live

  • Italian firm Leonardo launches a new ocean surveillance platform.
  • The defense company said the new platform can view the exact position of a vessel at any moment.
  • It is claimed as a new tool in the fight against piracy.

A surveillance system that can track ships and boats all over the world in real time and can be accessed from an iPhone has gone online.

Italian firm Leonardo launched its SEonSE (Smart Eyes on the Seas) platform Tuesday at the Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K.

A container ship is guided into the Port of Oakland by an AmNav tug boat in Oakland, California.
Tim Rue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A container ship is guided into the Port of Oakland by an AmNav tug boat in Oakland, California.

The defense company claims the new platform makes it possible to view the exact position of a vessel at any moment.

Piracy on the high seas costs shippers and insurers hundreds of millions of dollars each year and is particularly prevalent around Southeast Asia and West Africa.

The new platform has been touted as a big step as it can spot if a ship has stopped or deviated from its mapped course.

“Within seconds, people will be able to note unusual activity from a ship,” said Luigi Pasquali, Leonardo’s coordinator of space activities.

In this photo taken Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, masked Somali pirate Abdi Ali stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew,. 
Farah Abdi Warsameh
In this photo taken Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, masked Somali pirate Abdi Ali stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew,. 

Aside from security threats, Pasquali said the technology would aid in the fight against illegal fishing, help marine law enforcement and provide better market analysis for firms that regularly use shipping lanes.

“A huge amount of data is automatically processed in real-time for the protection of people and the maritime environment,” Pasquali added in a statement.

The raw data is collated from several satellites, some of which transmit a radar system providing the exact position of vessels. Others provide imagery, meaning the system will be able to track vessels that choose not to comply with identification requirements at sea.

SEonSE also factors in the Automatic Identification System (AIS) of small transponders fitted to shipping vessels worldwide. These continuously broadcast each vessel’s position and Leonardo said there are 7 million AIS signals sent every day.

Information from the world registry of ships, as well as weather and oceanographic information, are also crunched by Leonardo’s big data platform. The information is stored in the cloud, allowing tailored information to be continuously accessed by computers, tablets or phones.