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How AI is Cleaning Up the High Seas

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One company used risk models to detect criminal activity via markers like anomalous loitering; the results helped European authorities intercept a ship with hundreds of millions of dollars of illicit drugs on board.

Credit: Flickr

On August 8th, 2021, Spanish police and customs agents intercepted the cargo ship NATALIA on suspicion of narcotics trafficking. The ship was en route from Lebanon via Iskenderun, Turkey, to Lagos, Nigeria, and hidden on board was nearly 20 tons of hashish worth $470 million.

That may sound like the opening scene of an action flick, but it's the kind of occurrence that happens more frequently than you might expect on the high seas. Drug smuggling, illegal fishing, and piracy are constant threats. Following a number of recent piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden, Iran, Russia, and China recently began naval and air drills seeking to counter maritime piracy. The problem is that these crimes are very difficult to track and police.

How can nations effectively monitor their seas to make countering piracy and other maritime-based criminal activity more efficient?

Maybe it's because I live on a sailboat with my family, but I'm fascinated by the evolving efforts to monitor our oceans in an increasingly complex law enforcement paradigm. Artificial intelligence, not surprisingly, is a tool used increasingly frequently for the challenging job of keeping the seas (and global commerce) secure.

From ZDNet
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