Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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This color-coded map shows how many times each ship has been observed by the Norwegian Space Centre’s AISSat-1 nanosatellite during a 24-hour observation period (red to yellow: fewer observations; green to blue: more observations). (Credit: Norwegian Defence Research Establishment)

The European Space Agency (ESA) has helped coastal authorities track up to 70 percent more ships and pick up nearly three times more ship positions via satellite than previously possible.

Large cargo vessels and passenger ships are required to carry Automatic Identification System equipment that transmits the course and speed as well as identification and position information to other vessels and shore stations.

Originally developed to prevent collisions, it now also tracks ships to help prevent pollution, aid in the movement of dangerous goods and promote routine surveillance.

The Norwegian Coastal Administration, for example, is using the information to manage the national coast and waters for safety, emergency and transport planning. Advanced receivers, developed by Kongsberg Seatex in Norway with support from ESA, were launched aboard two NorSat satellites last year. In their first four months of operation, the receivers significantly improved the detection of identification signals.

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