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IPATCH Report Summary

Project ID: 607567
Funded under: FP7-SECURITY
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 2 - IPATCH (Intelligent Piracy Avoidance using Threat detection and Countermeasure Heuristics)

Project Context and Objectives:
Funded by the European 7th Framework Programme, the IPATCH project addresses Security Topic SEC-2013.2.4-2: Non-military protection measures for merchant shipping against piracy. The goal of the IPATCH project is three-fold:

(1) To perform an in-depth analysis of piracy incidents and the legal, ethical, economic and societal implications of existing counter piracy measures.

(2) To produce well-founded recommendations to the industry in the form of a manual, extending and complementing the BMP4 document and to support the use and further development of countermeasures.

(3) To develop an on-board automated surveillance and decision support system providing early detection and classification of piracy threats and supporting the captain and crew in selecting the most appropriate countermeasures against a given piracy threat.

The analysis performed under (1) will lead to recommendations for the use of countermeasures in a range of scenarios, structured as a manual (2), and development and implementation of an on-board surveillance and threat detection system (3). At the end of the project, the developed on-board system will be demonstrated in real-life maritime environments with simulated piracy attacks.

The IPATCH on-board system will consist of 3 elements:

1. A sensor suite, incorporating existing surveillance capabilities of the vessel (e.g. radar, AIS) and extending and complementing them with the use of advanced visual, thermal and infra-red cameras.

2. A threat recognition system which fuses data from the various sensors and employs new detection, tracking and situational awareness algorithms to give early warning of piracy threats.

3. A decision support tool which provides real-time information to the captain and crew and helps them select the most appropriate countermeasures and best course of action to take to protect the ship from potential piracy threats as they develop.

Project Results:
The first phase of the IPATCH project focussed on a detailed study of the piracy phenomenon and the ways in which the commercial shipping industry was addressing the challenges. The project created a large database of piracy incident reports by collecting information from publicly available sources (IMB, IMO, etc.) and fusing it with other data sets, such as weather conditions and maritime traffic. The data has been rationalised and structured into a format suitable for statistical and inferential analysis. Such analysis was performed to derive the characteristics of piracy attacks, with regard to place, time, method, etc., and the effectiveness of different types of countermeasures in different situations. The resulting piracy knowledgebase provides a base for the rest of the project but is a useful resource for the industry in itself.

Additional study has been carried out on the countermeasures themselves. In particular, the project has performed an analysis of the legal, ethical and societal issues surrounding the use of different countermeasures. This information, along with details of the technical and operational characteristics of the countermeasures, has been compiled into a ‘manual’ intended to be another resources for the industry. The manual is available in the form of a document, as well as an interactive electronic tool or ‘e-Manual’. This allows for more efficient searching of the information, as well as providing a database of countermeasures information that can be used by other systems.

In the second phase of the project, the focus has shifted to the technical development work on the on-board situational awareness and decision support platform. Development work has begun on the algorithms for detection and tracking, situational awareness, and threat recognition. The decision support tool is also under development, along with the human-machine interface (HMI). All components have been designed according to a common architecture and processing data model which facilitate integration of the complete system. Physical integration is achieved through an integration platform which acts as a communication mechanism between the different modules. To support the technical development, a maritime dataset was collected consisting of data from radar, AIS and GPS sensors, and thermal and visual cameras. This has also been published for use by the academic and industry research and development communities.

Finally, alongside the technical work in the project, exploitation and dissemination activities have been running to feed into development, as well as ensure awareness of the project’s outputs and facilitate potential uptake. As well as a number of peer-reviewed papers have been published, IPATCH has been presented at conferences, workshops and industry events worldwide.

Potential Impact:
Piracy knowledgebase:
IPATCH has collected detailed data on piracy incidents from available maritime data sources. The data includes details on the incident, the vessel, the attacker, the location and the ensuing costs. One of the key outputs of the project will be a purpose-built database which fuses the results and makes them available for analysis and consumption by other systems and users. IPATCH has also analysed the collected historical data to identify the most common threat scenarios and to quantify, rank and compare countermeasures in terms of their economic, legal, societal and ethical implications. The insight generated will be made available in reports and further used in the project as input to the countermeasures manual and on-board surveillance and decision support system.

Piracy manual for the industry:
The results of the above analysis will be compiled in a manual to provide practical recommendations and guidance for maritime stakeholders, particularly seafarers. This manual is intended to extend and complement the IMO’s “Best Management Practices” and will support all phases of shipping operations, including crew training, voyage planning and vessel preparedness, dynamic response support for emerging threats, and post-incident reporting.

Maritime situational awareness dataset:
IPATCH will collect a comprehensive set of sensor data for use in developing algorithms and evaluating system performance in detection, tracking, classification and threat recognition. This dataset will be fully annotated and documented, and published for the benefit of both the maritime and research communities. Methodologies for validating and certifying the detection system efficiency will contribute towards establishing a European reference and set of tools for the evaluation of detection and monitoring systems.

On-board situational awareness and decision support system:
IPATCH will develop an on-board system for the early detection, classification and mitigation of piracy threats. This will include the use of a range of sensors (visible light cameras, thermal cameras, radar, AIS), data fusion algorithms, and the implementation of intelligent algorithms for situation analysis and threat detection. A decision support tool and human-machine interface will be developed to provide maximal situation awareness to captains and crews and to guide them in implementing mitigating countermeasures in the safest and most effective way.

List of Websites:

Reported by

United Kingdom


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