Nato’s Operation Active Endeavour (OAE): preventing the use of the Mediterranean Sea for terrorist purposes

A new article in the Nato Review describe’s the OAE’s mission. From the article:

From OAE’s inception in late 2001 as NATO’s first and only Article V Operation, the inherent challenge has been to discriminate terrorist activity from the myriad of other sea-going enterprises. (…)

Watchstanders in the Maritime Operations Center can  process vast amounts of raw data received from shored-based, sea-based,  and airborne sensors. Some of this data comes in the form of Automated  Identification System (AIS) signals, which all commercial vessels  greater than 300 tons are legally obliged to transmit. With an expandingarray of networked sensors based in over 15 countries around the Mediterranean and Black Sea, this information system provides real-time  data on a daily average of 8,000 contacts.

Today’s network represents a quantum leap in  surveillance capacity over just a few years ago. With so much raw  information available, the trend in MSA is to develop technological  tools that can compare in real-time the transmitted data to database  information in order to validate the contacts’ names, registry numbers,  cargo, owners, recent and upcoming ports of call, etc.

These tools enable watchstanders to focus on  anomalous contacts and concentrate intelligence and maritime analyst  resources on irregular behaviour, such as unexplained loitering or  course deviations, in order to make the most of limited assets.

(…)
The Maritime Operations Centre in HQ MC Naples also routinely identifies anomalous information that is not terrorist-related but is of interest  to regional national authorities. Whether this information is an  indicator of illegal activity or simply errors in transmitted AIS data  is not always clear.

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