Security Breach – Gulf Of Aden AIS Feed Is Now Public

Gulf Of Aden AIS Screenshot

gCaptain has long been a proponent of open information and AIS technology (we even built our own iPhone app once) and in sharing maritime information publicly we have received many angry emails. But one proposal that came across my desk I quickly shut down; the idea was to publish live AIS information from piracy areas. The problem was not the technology – from satellites to UAV and long-range VHF antennas, we had a few great ideas for bringing live ship tracking data from the Gulf Of Aden to the public – the problem was security.

Of the nearly quarter of a million unique visitors gCaptain logged last month a full 1% of visitors read gCaptain from the countries surrounding the Gulf Of Aden. That’s over 2,000 visitors from the region and while most are welcome – visiting with the simple intent of catching up on industry news – it’s likely that a few pirates do read this site. A simple fact we acknowledge when publishing our weekly Maritime Crime and Piracy Update, and a fact we have discussed with Naval Intelligence agencies that monitor gCaptain (among other industry sites). But the information we publish, while accurate, is vetted by gCaptain editors. AIS, on the other hand, is raw data and, for this reason – our lack of control over live data -, gCaptain chooses not to publish live AIS feeds from the Gulf Of Aden.

So it’s with concern we bring news of Maritime Traffic’s latest coverage of ship traffic in the region. gCaptain forum member DeckApe tells us:

I’ve been watching marinetraffic.com for some time now. A few weeks ago a station started reporting on ships in the Gulf of Adan. While I’m glad to see the information is available for an otherwise unreported part of the world I am a little uncomfortable to see it.

Piracy off Somalia is now legend. I wonder if this information could aid the pirates. They can now track shipping from their iPhone.

What I find most odd about all this is it seems the reporting station is the MV Kellie Chouest, a ship leased by Military Sealift Command for rescue and salvage ops.

What on Earth is an MSC contract ship doing reporting the movements of major shipping in the Gulf of Aden?

I could be wrong about the Kellie Chouest. But it seems the bubble of visibility follows her back and forth threw the gulf. Is she acting as a pirate lure? Is someone just not thinking?

OpSec may be dead but this is taking it a bit far. Continue Reading…

gCaptain has long been a big proponent of Marine Traffic, we even broadcast their feed in the tools section of out site, but have they gone too far? Does live AIS data from piracy regions put mariners at risk? Visit our forum to answer these questions and share your thoughts on the subject of maritime security in the digital age: >AIS And Piracy, gCaptain Forum.