In June, defense ministers, military chiefs and other government officials from around the world gathered in Singapore—where Maxar’s Asia team is based—for the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security summit allowing policymakers to debate security challenges and exchange ideas.

As one of the Dialogue’s corporate attendees, I was privileged to hear what was on their minds and to speak with some of these leaders privately. One of the biggest, thorniest topics they raised this year was the ongoing challenge of ensuring maritime security.

If the Asia Pacific is the heartbeat of the world economy, then the region’s maritime shipping lanes are the world economy’s arteries. The Asia Pacific’s waters are the lifeline of global trade, with an astounding 60% of the world's trade traversing through these vital shipping lanes. Approximately 2,000 ships transport goods across the region every day. Disruptions to freedom of navigation or behavior that negatively impact a country's maritime economy—not to mention its undersea cables or energy pipelines—has far-reaching impacts on the global stage.

“International waters, which cover roughly half the planet and make up two-thirds of the ocean, suffer from patchwork regulation and inconsistent enforcement, a challenge that can give rise to human rights abuses, criminal acts and environmental harms,” the Washington Post reported.

Maritime security starts with maritime domain awareness, which is imperative to ensure the stability and prosperity of not only the region but the broader world. Given the vast expanses of water that are not regularly observed or policed by any nation, and the coastal waters of nations that lack adequate resources to surveil their sovereign territory, awareness is not a simple starting point.

Nations are often at a loss to prevent piracy, stop illegal fishing, thwart human trafficking, or even simply to know who is operating in the area. While many ships of interest are supposed to maintain an active automatic identification signal (AIS) to support vessel monitoring, a New York Times investigative report highlighted how bad actors not only can turn off their AIS signal to elude detection—they also send fake location signals to misdirect attention elsewhere.

Closer to home, the issue of maritime domain awareness is of great interest and concern to the U.S. government. On July 27 the Senate voted to pass its version of the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act, which calls for the creation of the “Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative,” a defense initiative with allies and partners of the U.S. to enhance their ability to monitor the maritime environment, leverage emerging technologies and facilitate information sharing.

While the Asia Pacific is the starting point for this discussion—multinational military exercises such as Talisman Saber and Malabar were held up during the Dialogue in June as promising venues to test out maritime domain awareness interoperability amongst regional partner nations—I also heard leaders from nations ranging from North America, to Europe, to the Middle East share their concerns on this issue. Many speakers highlighted the need to improve interoperability, develop compatible platforms and establish an interwoven security architecture.

Maritime Monitoring from Space

Fortunately, the growing desire to increase maritime domain awareness in the Asia Pacific and across the globe is backed by an evolution and expansion in the technology available. Space-based surveillance sensors are now mature enough to support cost-effective, 24/7/365 surveillance of the waters of the Asia Pacific, and artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) algorithms enable rapid analysis and decision-making.

Maxar's Crow's NestTM maritime monitoring and security capabilities leverage space-based optical and radar imagery and advanced machine learning to deliver critical information quickly. This tipping and cueing capability empowers nations to observe human activity across the maritime domain and provides early warnings of anomalous activities and potential threats, enabling them to take proactive measures, strengthening security and mitigating risks in the maritime domain.

By utilizing commercial, unclassified electro-optical, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and radar data that can be shared in real time, Crow’s Nest facilitates information sharing, collaborative efforts, and a collective approach to strengthening regional security postures.

Crow's Nest is currently being utilized by customers and in support of military exercises that promote security in the Asia Pacific region.

A key pillar of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region is the establishment and maintenance of a rule-based order. Geospatial data plays a pivotal role in monitoring adherence to international norms and regulations. By leveraging the capabilities of Maxar's Crow's Nest, nations can actively assess and respond to potential violations, promoting accountability and upholding the principles of a rule-based order.

To learn more about Crow’s Nest and understand how it supports maritime domain awareness, visit one of the following resources:

Maritime Security Depends on Earth Intelligence

Learn How Crow’s Nest Enhances Maritime Domain Awareness

Learn More About Crow’s Nest
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