Maritime insights vital for oil and gas industry


Understanding worldwide ship activity is crucial for the oil and gas sector – from identifying suspicious ships near offshore oil and gas assets, to protecting terminals at port, to vetting ships used by oil and gas companies to transport their oil shipments.

Specialist data company Windward said that the oil and gas sector has very significant stakes at sea. As a result, the maritime domain is of huge importance to this sector, from protecting offshore assets, terminal ports and underwater pipelines to ensuring that chartered ships carrying product do not pose a security or safety risk (i.e. that they are, indeed, who they say they are).

However, despite these stakes, it is difficult to see what is happening at sea. In the past, there was very little visibility because there was no data on ship activity beyond the radar screen. Today there are massive amounts of data – a combination of Automatic Identification System (AIS), databases, port agent reports etc. – but visibility remains very poor. The issue is that the data is not only vast, but fragmented, since it comes from many different sources, and is unreliable, as it is largely dependent on human input, which is rife with error and intentional manipulation.

Windward earlier reported that one per cent of all ships around the world are giving out fake identities via their AIS transponder systems. Windward said that its research has found that this is a fast-growing trend: over the past year, there has been a 30% rise in AIS manipulation of IMO numbers (a ship’s identity number, which is not supposed to change throughout its ‘lifetime’), with over 1% of the AIS-transmitting ships now reporting false identification data.

Windward also revealed that only 41% of ships report their final port of call, a quarter of global vessels turn off their AIS at least 10% of the time and from mid-2013 to mid-2014 there has been a 59% increase in the use of GPS manipulation. Chinese fishing vessels account for 44% of GPS manipulation. The company said it expects such figures to grow as more and more data comes online due to increased regulations and ships seeking to conceal their activities become increasingly aware that AIS is being used to ‘watch’ their activities.

In a world where ships posing a danger can come from anywhere in the world and can easily change identities and conceal their intentions, it is no longer enough to monitor a very limited geography or follow specific ships, Windward said. Rather, it is necessary to look at all ships, globally, over time in order to know their histories and travel patterns so that real-time anomalous, and suspicious, behaviour is immediately flagged, Windward said.

Windward analyses and organises the world’s maritime data through what it claims is a world first maritime data platform, which is the single and only place where all the information about what’s happening in the oceans worldwide, 24/7 is aggregated, vetted and analysed.

Taking a step back, 90% of the world’s trade is transported by sea, underscoring the huge impact of the maritime domain across nearly every industry. Yes despite the huge risks (and opportunities), the maritime information available today is largely unusable and provides very poor visibility. Windward is taking this data – vast, fragmented and unreliable – and making it actionable across industries. The oil and gas sector needs to have a clear picture of what is happening at sea and Windward says it is bridging the missing data link.