Synopsis of C-SIGMA, April 2005 to March 2017


Collaboration in Space for International Global Maritime Awareness

Pathway to Global Maritime Security Cooperation

C-SIGMA (AKA global space-based maritime situational awareness) envisions linking together existing space system capabilities in a worldwide network for international GLOBAL MARITIME AWARENESS.

Unnoticed by many, since 2004 and increasing steadily since then, there has been an on-going revolution in space-based Earth observation systems and, led by space-based AIS, their utility over the world’s waterways has increased dramatically. These capabilities not only support safety and security at sea but can also significantly assist in economic and environmental stewardship and resource protection, as well as disaster recovery. This is especially true of the remote areas of the world such as the Arctic, and the resource rich areas in the underdeveloped world such as the Gulf of Guinea, the South China Sea, Micronesia, and the Indian Ocean. The potential contributions of space-based Earth observation systems to maritime awareness is of growing interest to the world’s naval and law enforcement forces, as well as to environmental preservationists, governmental transport, commerce, maritime, environmental protection, and disaster preparedness ministries, in addition to ship brokers, and others with an interest in the marine domain, its environment, and the protection its resources.

Our research since September 2001 shows that no single country or international organization has the ability and resources to fully support the safe, secure and efficient use of the maritime domain as well as the conservation and protection of the marine environment with its finite resources of fish, minerals and oil, as well as to substantially assist oceanic commerce. Because no one country has sufficient resources, including space craft, substantial international collaboration is essential to achieving these objectives in a balanced manner. Indeed, this effort may need to be managed by an agency of the United Nations. Among the greatest need, as well as the greatest opportunities for international collaboration are presented by the multiple national and regional efforts to develop the doctrine and concept of operations to coordinate the use of the space technologies now available for detecting, identifying and tracking vessels well offshore, on a global scale. These systems are especially suited in areas with shared international interests such as the Arctic, or in pirate infested waters, or in areas known to support smuggling or resource theft of all types.

As of early 2017 there is a virtual tidal wave of new space-systems with earth observations capabilities being planned and built. Additionally, the cyber world is also enjoying a similar expansion. The time to get in on these significant events that are on the horizon and rapidly bearing down on the world is now, as this tide of technology rises, before we all drown in it. Seize the moment!

System Description:
There are six elements that must be integrated for effective results. (Four in space, two on the ground.)
Two of the four different satellites types employ imaging sensors:

  1. Synthetic aperture radar satellites (SARsats)
  2. Electro-optical (EO) imaging satellites

The other two satellite types are based on communications systems:

  1. Individual transponders sending short formatted status reports to communications satellites
  2. Automatic Identification System (AIS), an automated short message system designed for collision avoidance and traffic control in congested waters but is now also used globally as a primary ship identification and tracking system. It is the key component of this concept.
  3. The ground infrastructure, (terminals), software tools and licenses to allow users of the system to determine which spacecraft to task when to obtain the desired results, and to so act.
  4. The software tools to correlate, fuse and analyze the information generated by the space systems, including S-AIS track data, the basis for all analysis, along with all other pertinent data resident in all reachable data sources such as port, financial, shipping and broker records.

While C-SIGMA would go a long way toward satisfying many of the world’s varied needs for maritime situational awareness, it would also have the added benefit of providing a focal point for the creation of the global maritime security system envisioned in “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” the current major policy statement of the US military maritime services. The coordination needed to implement C-SIGMA would provide a focus for the efforts to achieve a common goal of protecting the maritime environment as stated in that document and would go far in bringing the lawlessness of such places as the Gulf of Guinea under control. Space-based earth observation does not replace terrestrial systems but does make them substantially more effective and is a significant start to fulfilling the core need of knowing who is where on the world’s waterways.

C-SIGMA directly supports the Presidential Policy DIRECTIVE Four (PPD-4), US National Space Policy (NSP), 28 June 2010, and could be the international mechanism to satisfy its Implementation Task #1. PPD-4 emphasizes U.S. leadership in space and directs international collaboration on mutually beneficial space activities for the purpose of broadening and extending the benefits of space to all mankind. PPD-4, which is unclassified, has a classified Implementation Directive. However, Task Directive #1 is unclassified and states:

“(U) Working through the National Maritime Domain Awareness Coordination structure, the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, Transportation, State and Commerce, will develop an unclassified, international available program to foster international collaboration using civil and commercial space systems to enhance global maritime domain awareness to provide: enhanced safety of life at sea; increased mutual security of all users of the maritime domain; improved protection of the maritime environment and the resources of the sea; improved flow of commerce; and better monitoring of the condition and performance of the Marine Transportation System.”

The implementation of that directive has been held in abeyance for some unknown reason but implementing C-SIGMA could well be the key to building the envisioned, truly global, maritime security system, and would substantially assist in many tasks including detection of illegal smuggling of all types, of both goods and people; much improved maritime pollution control and resource protection, such as illegal fishing and stealing of oil, as well as dramatically assisting humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery operations. Remote ocean surveillance in such areas as the Arctic, the southern oceans, and the western Pacific would clearly immediately benefit many people both in and out of those regions. Implementing C-SIGMA in the Arctic and a few other locales such as the Gulf of Guinea and the western Pacific could be the needed stepping stone to the implementation of Global Maritime Awareness for the betterment of the entire world.

Since April 2005 what is now C-SIGMA1 has held 10 highly successful international conferences at locales such as:

2005-6 USCG HQ., Washington, DC; (TEXAS 1-2)
2007-9 the Canadian Embassy, Washington, DC; (TEXAS 3-5)
2010 ESA Earth Observation Centre, Frascati, Italy; (C-SIGMA I)
2011 NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Evaluation, La Spezia, Italy; (C-SIGMA II)
2012 the Canadian Embassy, Washington, DC (C-SIGMA III)
2013 the Irish National Space Center, Cork, Ireland; (C-SIGMA IV)
2014 Tokyo, Japan (hosted by JAXA and the Japanese Coast Guard) (C-SIGMA V) and at

2015 InMarSat HQ, (hosted by England’s Space Catapult). (C-SIGMA VI)

2016 C-SIGMA VII will be hosted in April 19-20, 2017 by the European Maritime Safety Agency, Lisbon Portugal.

These conferences have been attended by all of the major Earth observation and AIS satellite builders and operators, and most if not all, of the builders of dynamic data analysis software focused on Earth observation. Many users of this data from all corners of the globe have also participated.

1(the first four conferences were called TEXAS (Technical EXchange on Ais via Satellite)