Ships and the universe: when boats are spotted from space

Ships and the universe: when boats are spotted from space

Ships seen from the universe. It may seem strange, but it exists! Indeed, it is one of the most important challenges facing the future of passenger and freight transportation. At the end of January, maritime professionals were in Marseille, southern France, to attend European Maritime Meetings. Space and satellite observation have been part of current discussions.

Did you notice? There was never a Titanic II “. Such a catastrophic shipwreck in the world's seas. It's thanks to the sky and satellites.

AIS, Authentication Satellite System

This British humor is precisely the work of Briton Nick Appleyard, director of the European Space Agency. His quality as a communications expert allows him to understand data coming from about twenty specialized satellites. He says that these are policemen of the sea route whose sensors and radars see and record everything, currents, and speeds of ships or cargo:

You know, it's at sea like GPS on trains or trucks. Space, with satellites, allows for a more efficient quality of communications than compromised terrestrial means (obstacles, houses, walls, weather, etc.). Then satellites and radars capture precise images of ships and sea hazards: icebergs, oil spills. Or plastic stains or algae… There are many useful parameters for sailors and ship owners who can save time and manage their itineraries better. »

anti polution

The development of computers and new artificial intelligence, called generative, will transform ship surveillance. Faster and more accurately, the instruments calculate speeds to save fuel.

Thanks to new artificial intelligence innovations, satellites will enable the development of tools capable of remotely piloting a ship in difficulty in maneuvering in a port or in a canal.

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Russian tankers and attacks in the Red Sea

Paul Tourette, director of the Higher Institute of Marine Economics in Ismar, sees another feature directly linked to the news of attacks on ships off the coast of Yemen:

To cite just two examples of satellite surveillance linked to the hot news of 2024: attacks on Russian oil and cargo ships by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. Transporting Russian oil is subject to sanctions, but is not illegal. Using satellites, we can monitor shipments and the routes they follow to their destination. As for attacks off Yemen, the Houthis use satellite signals to obtain information about boats. So, of course, the ships can stop their communication. This not only endangers the crew and cargo, but also the security of the entire international maritime traffic. »

Realizing the importance of space in winning the battle against pollution, the French shipowner CMA-CGM signed a partnership (2021-2026) with the National Center for Space Studies CNES.

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