Data fraud continues to rise in maritime industry

A report by Windward has found that Automatic Identification System (AIS) data is becoming increasingly manipulated and unreliable in the shipping industry
Data fraud continues to rise in maritime industry

A new report from specialised data and analytics company, Windward has found that ships worldwide are increasingly manipulating data to conceal their identity, location and destination, undermining the ability to track their activities.

“AIS Data on the High Seas: An Analysis of the Magnitude and Implications of Growing Data Manipulation at Sea” has revealed that Automatic Identification System (AIS) data is becoming increasingly manipulated and far more unreliable.

Over the past two years there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of ships reporting false identities. Only 41 percent of ships are reporting their final port of call, with this destination deception undermining commodity traders and those tracking international commodity flows and supply and demand dynamics.

There has also been a 59 percent jump in the number of ships transmitting incorrect positioning information over the past two years, allowing ships to obscure their actual location. Chinese fishing vessels account for 44 percent of GPS manipulators. Additionally 27 percent of ships do not transmit data at least 10 percent of the time, and large cargo ships shut off their transmissions 24 percent longer than other ships. 19 percent of ships that ‘go dark’ are repeat offenders.

AIS can be spoofed, allowing interested parties to create ‘ghost ships’ where none exist. There are significant incentives – both criminal and financial – to conceal the real identities, locations or destinations of ships. This growing manipulation is possible because AIS, originally designed to promote safety at sea, mandates that ships transmit information, but has no validation mechanisms to ensure that the information is accurate. This off label use of AIS – for tracking ships vs. for safety – has resulted in a growing number of ships hiding their information.

Ami Daniel, co-Founder and CEO of Windward explains: “Global seaborne trade touches nearly every aspect of our lives, with 90 percent of the world’s trade and most of our commodities transported by sea. And yet, the oceans remain one of the last Wild West frontiers, as this report shows that the data available on what’s happening at sea is increasingly unreliable and manipulated.”

“Using this data as-is is a dangerous, and costly, game of chance.”

To read the Executive Summary of the report and see an Infographic highlighting the main findings, go to


by Laura Stackhouse Editor

Laura Stackhouse is the Web Editor of, an official publication of the International Marine Purchasing Association (IMPA). To discuss news, features or contributing to please get in touch.

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