Maritime Security Cooperation

Dead Ships

Maintaining a database with the latest information on over 150,000 active vessels over 100GRT, is a constant and unforgiving task.  In today’s world, maritime transportation plays a predominant role in the supply chain, and maintaining the latest and most up to date information on vessels and shipping companies is sometimes a seemingly overwhelming task. Technology can help analysts maintain an awareness of anomalies that may be a result of nefarious activity, laziness, or simply unintentional oversight. 

For instance, reaching into our own vessel database we find that there are 177 vessels whose status is either they have been “broken up” or reported as a “total loss.”  When reported in this manner one would not expect to see these vessels tracking via their AIS transmissions, however these 177 vessels are doing just that.       


Working with IHS Fairplay we have investigated these anomalies as to why we are still getting AIS transmissions and our findings can be best summarized as follow:

1) In the vast majority of cases it seems the transmitter has been removed from scrapped ships and sold on for reuse. Using Google Earth it’s been possible to precisely locate the source of the transmissions. In some cases they come from buildings usually near major ports so we would assume they’re being tested by marine equipment sales companies who didn’t bother to take out the original ships details. In other cases they come from berths or actually at sea, so we assume they’ve been refitted to other vessels either for further testing or because they’re going to use them for real and the crew have forgotten (or don’t know) how to reprogram them correctly. Sometimes this is close to the scrapping site of the original vessel, but in several cases the transmitter from a vessel broken up in Turkey has turned up in a warehouse in China. So it’s obviously an international trade.

 2) There are a few cases where for some unknown reason a small vessel has entered a valid IMO number belonging to a much larger (now scrapped) vessel in the IMO field on the transmitter, which obviously causes confusion. Probably it’s a genuine mistake and not having an IMO number they’ve put in some other random official number which unfortunately is also an IMO number.

 3) In a number of cases the dates of the status date in our system and the transmission date were very close or the transmission date was actually after the status date. We quite often only have the date the vessel arrives at a scrapping facility and it may be several days after that when they actually start the work and switch off the transmitter etc.

 Looking at the evidence and why we understand it may cause certain confusion, unfortunately that is down to the limitation of AIS system rather than errors on our data. In an ideal world we would attempt to contact the owners of vessels transmitting incorrect data and ask them to amend it, but as they are not transmitting their real name, that is an impossible task.  In most cases the transmissions are from a part of the world where maritime standards are likely to be less rigorously enforced, if for example a vessel tried to sail down the Dover Straits using someone else’s details it would be challenged immediately.

 ©GreenLine Systems, Inc. 2011.  Reuse of this information is permitted so long as the following is acknowledged in any reuse:  The above information does not demonstrate that any vessel, crew or charterer, or other owner or user of the above vessels has violated any maritime standards.



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