Each year, thousands of mariners in small vessels lose their lives at sea and billions of dollars are lost to illegal fishing and resource smuggling, both activities also often involving small boats. Accordingly, two significant challenges faced by modern coastal states are the need to ensure small vessel maritime safety in their areas of interest, as well as the need to be able to monitor and manage small vessel maritime activities within their EEZ and beyond. These dual goals have led to a demand for an affordable, wide-area, large-population small vessel tracking solution which also incorporates internationally recognised maritime safety capabilities.
It was these dual demands that induced exactEarth to develop its AIS-based ‘exactTrax’ solution to meet this important global requirement. exactTrax allows specially modified AIS Class B devices to be tracked reliably via satellite. As such, it combines all the key attributes and global standards of AIS related to vessel safety, together with the ability to track small vessels regardless of their location – in-shore, off-shore or on the high-seas.
With this background, the UK Space Agency’s ‘International Partnership Programme’ (IPP 1 ) support for exactEarth Europe’s OASIS-TU project has been instrumental in:
• implementing exactTrax as an operational service in South Africa. The project is being delivered through our South African partners, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI). Benefits include a reduction in small vessel-related deaths at sea (South Africa has some of the most treacherous sea conditions in the world) and a reduction in Search and Rescue (SaR) costs (millions of Rand are spent every year by SAMSA and the NSRI on small vessel rescues).
• supporting the development of a new exactTrax transponder by Stone Three Venture Technology, a South African company, for subsequent, and very successful service trials in Madagascar. These involved five Malagasy government agencies: CFIM, APMF, COFONA, CSP and ARTEC, and fifty small boat operators in three regions of the country. As the trials were so successful, all the stakeholders are now looking for further capital funding for an operational deployment to reach 1,000 small boat operators in Madagascar.
• allowing exactEarth Europe to promote exactTrax, via in-country small-scale service trials, in a further five SADC maritime nations and two countries in West Africa. Local small boat monitoring requirements across these include safety of life at sea and small-scale fisheries management.