Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

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SlowApproach
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Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by SlowApproach » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:21 am

With the much greater ability to locate and track “dark ships” (i.e. those that have their AIS - the marine equivalent of ADS-B - turned off) as well as illegal vessel rendezvous and transhipments-at-sea soon to become a reality, I was wondering if this may not also present a good opportunity for some of our local aviators to get involved in; given the coordinates, to fly out and to photograph and/or make videos of these at reasonably close range. (Not too close obviously as some of the baddies may actually decide to shoot at any approaching aircraft)

(Our government is supposed to play a major role in monitoring and protecting our waters but we all know how badly they are faring at such matters. To wit as well, the number of private companies providing security compared to the availability of the police)

Although satellite-based, high-res photography does a pretty good job of capturing images, it is primarily at Nadir (top-down) angles. So being able to acquire good images (and videos) of the vessels from different angles would obviously aid in the general identification and evidence for pursuing and securing convictions globally. (There are also moves afoot globally to “name & shame” the operators and skippers of these vessels, which could make them think twice about doing the things they do)

The flight operational area would only be within our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) at this stage (The EEZ extends out to 200 NM at sea)

Note that “dark ships” are not only involved in massive-scale illegal fishing that deplete fish stocks and deprive local industries of income, but also involved in pirating, human trafficking, drug and other illicit goods smuggling and even oil and gas smuggling! Transhipments-at-sea are another major issue, as it basically allows vessels to remain at sea for months or even years at a time, trapping crew members on board and leaving them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Deanw » Sat Feb 09, 2019 3:51 pm

Are you proposing that untrained and unqualified private citizens should fly some distance from our coast, over the sea to undertake unauthorised intelligence and reconnaissance missions that have been entrusted to the SANDF, police, DAFF and other State security services, in aircraft not designed or equipped for such tasks? :shock:

Or are you proposing a civilian maritime neighborhood watch, operating under a State department which would be trained for such tasks? Like what the SAAF Reserve Squadrons could be doing, but don't because of lack of funding, etc?
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by SlowApproach » Sat Feb 09, 2019 4:20 pm

I'm not proposing anything. I'm just throwing the idea out there as there may be some enterprising and obviously (have to be) well-qualified and well-equipped folks who could take up the idea and run with it as an opportunity for themselves. (It's no skin off my back, personally or commercially, whether it's taken up or not. It's just that there are always concerns floating about how little non-airline commercial work is out there so it might actually be something worth pursuing from a job, career and operational perspective).

So, a "civilian maritime neighborhood watch" might indeed be it. I don't know.

Note however there isn't any recce or patrolling involved. Baddie vessels would have already been identified through AI-based analytics, so a typical operation would merely entail passively gathering photographic or video evidence at a specific location or locations.

This could actually help the authorities tremendously in terms of time and budget - and effectiveness. Instead of wandering about, hoping to spot something suspicious, they could head straight off to a pinpointed location for an intercept. (Even taking time to get there might not be much of an issue, because once a baddie has been identified and is tracked, they not gonna get away no matter what they do or where they travel to. Unless they sink themselves, of course :lol:)
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by SlowApproach » Sat Feb 09, 2019 7:56 pm

So many Saffers aren't aware of how massive and serious the problem actually is, so have a quick read here (even those who are just interested in "Rands & Cents" may find it interesting):

"Billions of Dollars Lost to Illegal Fishing in the SADC Region"
http://saiia.org.za/research/billions-o ... dc-region/

This article is from 2016 but nevertheless is as valid now (and even more so) as it was then.
"SA at sea over illegal fishing in its waters"
https://mg.co.za/article/2016-05-19-00- ... its-waters

Now tell me that somehow the SA aviation fraternity don't/won't/can't have (or figure out) an incredibly important role to play in helping to combat this scourge (and possibly even create some much-needed employment in the process)
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Richard Smit » Sat Feb 09, 2019 9:07 pm

This discussion really has merit.

The “how” is a challenge, of course.

The “why”, is simply self-evident.

There’s a lot more to it, though. Just ask Horace, he is a specialist in maritime surveillance ops.

A worthwhile discussion!
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Gooby » Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:02 am

I really like this idea. How do you see such an organisation come to life? Would there be a big enough incentive for let's say fisheries or the SANDF to help fund such an organisation, or do you see it as primarily a volunteer organisation?
SlowApproach wrote:
Sat Feb 09, 2019 4:20 pm
...
Note however there isn't any recce or patrolling involved. Baddie vessels would have already been identified through AI-based analytics
...
Does this ability exist already? If so, I would imagine there is already an opportunity to test the idea and form a plan based on actual interceptions, response times etc..

Awesome idea SlowApproach, so sick of people complaining of how bad things are, it's refreshing to see more and more people trying to do something about it =D>
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Richard Smit » Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:40 am

This could be a low-cost solution for in-shore patrol , much like the 27 Sqn used to do in the Albatrosses.

A well co-ordinated “Civil Air Patrol” type set-up could work well, I think. Link this into the greater, established command & control system.

The crew will need to be properly trained though, as there are lots and lots of regulations, conventions, treaties, etc, that impact this kind of operation. Effective S&R, and sea survival training will also form part of tbe requirement.

This aircraft (link below) offers an attractive combination of cabin/door design, sensor systems, crew facilities (toilet, work stations, galley), and full IFR capability, at relatively low cost.

http://www.vulcanair.com/userfiles/file ... Viator.pdf
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by SlowApproach » Sun Feb 10, 2019 11:25 am

Gooby: I have no idea as to the organisation or who's involvement.

As for the identification and locating, there are in fact numerous space-based (i.e. orbiting satellite) initiatives that have been implemented or are in the process of being activated to also cater for the many instances where vessels' AIS or VMS is lacking, inactive, or deliberately switched off. For example:

- If they switch on any bright lights at night, they can be detected using VIIR (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometers) (some fishing vessels use bright lights to attract fish at night, and it has already been established that more than 85% of the detections are from vessels that lack AIS or VMS transponders)

- If they transmit anything typical to a vessel's activities, including using radar, they can be detected using their RF emmissions (this is soon to be made commercially-available on a global scale)

- If they rendevous at sea, they can be detected due to the above as well as through Nadir-based imaging, and shortly, object-in-image recognition.

The resulting analytics (and more) from all of this data are being made available in various forms and formats. Some free and some not.

In a nutshell then, yes, the baddies can already be pinpointed to a large degree. However, it's what happens afterwards, especially in the SA context, that all questions remain open-ended...
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Jack Welles » Sun Feb 10, 2019 12:21 pm

Basically doesn't this come down to a cost vs benefit equation?

From a pilots POV it's lekker to have a mission to fly, but someone has to put up the funds (and it ain't cheap) and that's where the rubber hits the road. 8-[
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by SlowApproach » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:00 pm

JW, you're a "big-picture" kinda guy, so consider what it costs the country, its inhabitants and its taxpayers to NOT do something about it!

The lost taxes alone run into the billions! (Those fishing in our EEZ have to pay us tax on their catches, so if they evade tax by under-reporting their catches or even none at all because their catches have conveniently been transhipped-at-sea to other vessels steaming off to say, Europe to go sell their very profitable, "tax-free" hauls, then surely this in itself deserves some serious attention)
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Roger » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:34 pm

What about the use of drone technology? Including water based drones as well as airborne.
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Gooby » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:43 pm

SA: Can you perhaps share more info or links to these initiatives?
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Spice » Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:01 pm

Well, we all recognise the need. I was involved in various submissions to relevant stakeholders some years back, following them issuing RFIs. The main stakeholder is the SANDF, and DEAT (MCM), then there are all the other interfaces, e.g. Customs, SAPS, SASAR, etc, etc….
Various combinations were offered to meet e.g. DEAT (MCM) Operaional Requirements, they were shocked to see what the cost of e.g. mission equipment and platforms would be. Various financing options were developed too, ranging from PFI, PPP, Outright Purchase, BOT, Service Provider etc.
No political will or funding even if one can get govt departments that have a stake to pool rersources, been down that route too...
Is there a need, definately, do the stakeholders really want to do something - doubt it.
Anyway, just my 2cents worth.
I am glad to see someone else is also asking if it is feasable.
Maybe in the future, I would still like to see some sort of caopablity, but the resources and finding required to even have a proposal sumbitted - just to be rejected, it cost us a couple of 100 thousand ZAR. Zero return...
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by Deanw » Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:27 pm

https://www.defenceweb.co.za/security/m ... Itemid=233

The above proposal had potential to be a real winner for both the consortium and South Africa. A modern maritime surveillance / SAR solution at zero capital cost, realistic operating costs, training in up-date-date methodologies and availability to start ops quickly. I understand that inter-departmental budgets could have been approved under Project Phakisa.

However, certain individuals within the various State agencies did not give approval for reasons I will not go into here. A real opportunity lost.

http://www.saairforce.co.za/forum/viewt ... 9&p=111452
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Re: Photographing “dark ships” and other baddies operating in and around SA’s waters

Unread post by ACE MAN » Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:40 pm

What was the function of “Kuswag” that patrolled our shores in Turbine Partenavia’s. And why did they stop?
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