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Ships in the Night

Michal Ish Shalom

While 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea, the journey between destinations has often been spent in a deep blue vacuum. Ships have learned to evade maritime monitors, and avoid tracking through GPS manipulation. Sometimes they simply “go dark.” Now, an Israeli start-up is lighting up the dark waters.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

In December 2013, the screens of the MarInt system at Windward headquarters in Tel Aviv began flashing a warning. A cargo ship had transmitted a message that it was docking at the port of Mundra, in western India. But there were two anomalies: First, the vessel identified itself using the name of a massive container ship, which would never have been able to dock in the shallow waters of the small Indian port. Second, that container ship had actually been decommissioned the year before and sent to the shipyards, where its hull was shredded and turned into a mass of metal strips. Why would the ship identify itself under a false name? Windward, an Israeli start-up that has developed cutting-edge maritime tracking and predictive technology, tracked the ship as it sailed from Mundra along a northwesterly route toward the naval border between Iran and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. There, in the middle of the sea, the boat lingered, most likely in order to rendezvous with another ship while keeping off the radar. The mysterious vessel then sailed southward to the port of Bosaso, Somalia — world capital of ocean piracy — and continued on to Oman, where it disappeared. “The sea is the last frontier of the Wild West,” Windward CEO Ami Daniel — who founded the company in 2010 along with Matan Peled — tells Mishpacha. “Three-quarters of the globe is covered in water, and 90 percent of world trade is conducted by sea. But there has been limited visibility about what ships are doing once they leave port. We’re working to change that, to collect and analyze all the data so both governments and private companies will be able to know what’s happening once a ship leaves port.”

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