UK IT firm helps navy take on Somalian pirates

A European navy has recently deployed a new communications system that uses Wi-Fi meshing technology as a key component in its battle against Somalian pirates.

Worthing-based IT security consultancy Global Secure Systems (GSS) worked on the wireless component of a Maritime Boarding system, developed by Systematic of Denmark. It also used rugged, secure Wi-Fi equipment from Rajant of the US.

The Maritime Boarding system has been deployed to enable navy teams to board a suspect pirate vessel and search for arms or other suspect cargo, while providing a live video and voice feed back to the main patrol ship.

In addition to the real-time live feed, data can be sent back to the main ship, enabling biometric tasks like fingerprinting and photographic identification to be done in real time.

David Hobson, GSS managing director, told IT PRO the naval customer and vessel involved could not be named for security reasons. But he said: "It's the ability to automatically establish a high-bandwidth data network quickly and easily extend the Wi-Fi range so you can very quickly link smaller RIB and larger patrol vessels, and even helicopters, that's key here."

The navy has also used the system to relay what the pirates say back to an interpreter on the bridge of the main ship, so the boarding party can be told what is being said. The result is a much quicker and safer inspection of potential pirate vessels in the region.

"The Wi-Fi meshing technology used as a core part of the Systematic Sitaware Maritime Boarding system is a highly secure and cost-effective solution," he added, explaining that existing military systems were either too expensive or did not provide enough bandwidth for multimedia communications.

The International Maritime Bureau recently released its annual piracy report confirming an increase in piracy around the world, noting in particular a 200 per cent increase off the coast of Africa. These included the Saudi-owned supertanker Sirius Star, recently released for an undisclosed ransom.

Since its deployment in early December, the system has been used in action to help confiscate rocket propelled grenades and AK-47s machine guns, arrest pirates and sink their vessel before the pirates were handed over to the local coastguard.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.