Sunday, December 8, 2019

Human fish deep sea diving record aka Deep Sea Diving (1920)

Deep sea diving in Boston Massachusetts, United States of America.
Full titles read: "HUMAN FISH - breaks record for deep sea diving - new armoured diving suit enables diver to descend 360 feet."
M/S Scene on the deck of a ship.
Crewmen surround the deep sea diver as he prepares to go overboard.
He is wearing a ridiculously designed swimsuit imaginable, ( it looks like some kind of alien from a 50's B-movie!) the suit is of metal construction and is incredibly clumsy and heavy looking.
C/U The Helmet is put into place over the diver and attached to the suit with large bolts.
M/S Some amusing scenes follow, the crewmen attach the diver onto a winch and hoist him off the deck.
M/S He is lowered tentatively to the surface of the water.
He is lowered right down until his head is completely submerged, before being pulled back to safety.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Image of the week : the Deep Sea


From Digg

Despite the perennial excitement about space travel and traversing to other planets afar, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring our own planet, especially the deep seas. According to NOAA, eighty percent of our oceans are still "unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored."

Neal Agarwal's "The Deep Sea" gives perhaps the most comprehensive interactive tour to date of the parts of the ocean that we do know about and it's a fascinating ride to the bottom.

Beginning at just a few dozen meters below the ocean, Agarwal begins this interactive digital journey in familiar territory with manatees, Atlantic salmon and polar bears.



After a few scrolls, at over 100 meters deep, there still remains identifiable animals like killer whales and sea lions.






At over 200 meters deep, we start encountering less familiar sea creatures like the wolf eel.


And at 332 meters, we reach the deepest part of the ocean a human has ever scuba dived.


The descent continues well, well beyond 1,000 meters, reaching mind-boggling (and increasingly sparsely-populated) depths.

Check out the rest scrolling the above image...

Friday, December 6, 2019

Seagoing drones are eliminating the data gap on Earth’s last frontier

Sofar Ocean’s demo patch of ocean.
A detailed look at waves in the Pacific Ocean from Sofar’s sensors. 

From Quartz by Michael J. Coren

When cartographers first started mapping the world’s oceans, sea monsters and mythical beasts inhabited the places where sailors had yet to explore.
Today, just off the continental shelf in the Pacific, we still don’t know much about what’s going on.
Just 20 or so miles off the coast, the seafloor plunges to more than 2,500 meters (1.6 miles) deep, a point at which it’s often too expensive to measure conditions.

One strategy has been to build expensive floating sensor stations, each one dangling with as many sensors as possible, to send back data from offshore.
But the exorbitant costs (pdf)—often $50,000 or more per buoy, and nearly as much in annual maintenance—makes this prohibitive for all but government agencies and large corporations.
Of course, satellites peer down from space, but they’re limited in how precise they can be from so far away.
That leaves ships and coastlines vulnerable.


Today, the startup Sofar Ocean Technologies opened up access to a new global array of oceanic buoys that promise detailed measurement of the wind, weather, and currents across the Pacific, and eventually all the world’s oceans.
Sofar has taken the CubeSat strategy (pdf): borrow off-the-shelf hardware from the consumer electronics world, harden it against the elements, and then launch into an inhospitable environment.
CubeSats, miniature satellites assembled from relatively cheap components often borrowed from smartphones, have already conquered near-Earth orbit.
But the oceans are still nearly vacant.
While the vacuum beyond our atmosphere seems harsh, it’s nearly placid compared to ocean storms, ship collisions, and corrosive saltwater capable of sinking all but the sturdiest craft.

A detailed look at waves in the Pacific Ocean from Sofar’s sensors.

To solve that, Sofar, founded in 2016, designed and launched more than 200 buoys called Spotters (now on sale for $4,900), tiny bright yellow pyramids shingled with solar panels that can traverse the world’s oceans.
Wind, wave, and temperature data are beamed back continuously via a satellite connection at a cost at least 10 times lower than traditional instruments.


“This is by far the largest privately owned weather network in the ocean,” says Tim Janssen, an engineer and oceanographer who founded Sofar, located in San Francisco’s Pier 50, Shed B.

But it’s not the biggest overall.
That honor belongs to the international Argo network, led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of more than 3,200 submersible moorings, spread across the world’s oceans and designed to map temperature and salinity in the upper 2,000 meters (6,560 ft).
The Argo data, while comprehensive, only comes in every 10 days or so and is limited when it comes to surface weather.

To obtain real-time data, Sofar flipped the existing monitoring model on its head.
Instead of deploying relatively few very expensive sensor-laden buoys, Sofar shipped out hundreds of cheap, light-weight vessels that could roam the oceans at a fraction of the cost of their predecessors.


Sofar Strider is designed for operations in coastal, near-shore and inland waters.
It combines autonomous navigation, solar power, and a modular design to enable it to operate autonomously or remote-controlled through the internet, while integrating with a wide range of sensors

After Spotters, Sofar (which recently received $7 million in venture capital, according to PitchBook) plans to build an enormous fleet of autonomous, solar-powered surface craft called Striders (based on its underwater version, Trident) that can be dropped by ship or aircraft anywhere in the open ocean.
They’ll stream real-time data as well as video.


The company is targeting shipping lines, weather forecasters, government agencies, militaries, and even big wave surfers.
With weather observations comparable to land, a host of new applications opens up.
Satellites can calibrate using global surface data to improve forecasts.
Weather routing makes ships more efficient since waves, wind, and currents all have profound effects on resistance in the water (and fuel bills).
Precise forecasts could cut fuel use by 10% or more, Sofar estimates.
Surfers chasing the world’s largest swells need better real-time wave readings as they hit coastlines around the world, and Sofar says it is already working with big-wave luminaries Grant Washburn and Kai Lenny.

The challenge, says Carl Gouldman, director for NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System, will be accessing and integrating data from low-cost, autonomous sensor platforms into the world’s weather and ocean models.
Calibrating and refining this new data source will lead to big benefits, but years of work lie ahead.

Eventually, Sofar hopes the cost of deploying its sensor network will be so low it’s possible to cover the world’s ocean, even areas such as developing countries and island communities where nothing exists today.
“We’ve worked to get away from the hardware problem and make it a data problem,” says Janssen.
“For the first time, we can close the data gap in the oceans.”

Links :

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Drones from Open Ocean Robotics make a splash, tackling winter storms and more

Prototype of the Force 12 Xplorer being tested near Victoria, British Columbia.
It uses a rigid wingsail for propulsion
photo : Colin Angus

From Forbes by Jeff Kart

It’s been a great year for Open Ocean Robotics, a British Columbia-based startup that makes solar-powered drones that can gather environmental data in real time and help address a multitude of issues.

During 2019, Open Ocean Robotics won a most-promising startup award from the National Community for Angels, Incubators, and Accelerators; $100,000 in a Spring Impact Investor Challenge; and was a finalist in a New Ventures BC Competition, to name a few.

So how do you follow that up for 2020?

“This winter, we’ll conduct sea trials during big winter storms, where our boats could encounter waves that are 50 feet or larger,” says CEO Julie Angus.
“Our boat will repeatedly capsize during these conditions, but its self-righting design will enable it to continue operating.
“The boat is outfitted with a whole suite of sensors to measure its performance and how it handles these conditions, as well as the environment around it.
While we’ve tested its performance in simulated environments, there is no substitution for actually being in these epic waves and we’re excited to learn how it handles these waves.”

Prototype of Data Xplorer being tested near Victoria, British Columbia.
It uses solar energy to power a highly efficient magnetically coupled pod motor
photo : Colin Angus 

The startup’s ocean drones can be used to collect all kinds of ocean and environmental data.
They’re solar-powered, and can reportedly stay on the ocean for up to a year, continuously collecting data, and send it to a user in real time using satellite and other communication systems.

That translates to precise information on marine weather conditions and more accurate forecasts, which can help optimize ship routing, cut fuel use and in turn reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The boats are equipped with 360-degree cameras, ship-tracking intelligence known as AIS and remote-sensing LIDAR (which uses lasers).

“Because our vessels are entirely solar-powered, they produce no greenhouse gases, noise pollution or risk of oil spills, and by using them instead of a diesel-powered ship, you can have a significant impact on emission reductions,” Angus adds.



So far, the Victoria, British Columbia, company has done testing in the Pacific Ocean near Vancouver Island.
The longest mission to date was a 54-hour, non-stop run totaling 74 kilometers (almost 46 miles), Angus says.
It occurred during the darker, rainy days of November, but 85% of the battery capacity remained at the end of the run.
Try that with your smartphone.
“We’ve demonstrated our vessel’s ability to voyage autonomously as well as remotely, go on multi-day missions, collect oceanographic data and transmit in by cellular or satellite communications,” she added.

Plans for 2020 also include collecting data for customers.

The first pilot project is with the Canadian Coast Guard, to use a boat for seafloor mapping in shallow waters, which is critical for navigational safety and understanding the oceans.
Angus notes that less than 20% of the world’s oceans are mapped and in some regions, such as the Canadian Arctic, only 1% is mapped to modern-day standards.

She says autonomous technology can play a significant role in helping map the oceans by making it safer, easier and more affordable to collect the data.
Other companies in the space include Saildrone, which launched its first Atlantic to Mediterranean mission in November.

Open Ocean Robotics also is working with partners including Oceans and Fisheries Canada to collect other data including information on weather, currents and temperature.


Besides being the CEO, Angus also is co-founder of Open Ocean Robotics, and an adventurer.
She was the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean from mainland to mainland, among other accomplishments.
Her partner and the startup’s co-founder Colin Angus was the first to circle the globe exclusively by human power.
To top it all off, Julie Angus is one of six women finalists in the Women in Cleantech Challenge, which came with $850,000 in support and the chance to win another $1 million prize to be awarded in the winter of 2020-2021.

Links :

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Warming waters, moving fish: how climate change is reshaping Iceland

A fresh catch being brought aboard the fishing vessel Ásdis in waters off of Bolungarvik, a small fishing town in the Westfjords of Iceland.

From NYTimes by Kendra Pierre-Louis / Photographs by Nanna Heitmann

ISAFJORDUR, Iceland — Before it became a “Game of Thrones” location, before Justin Bieber stalked the trails of Fjadrargljufur, and before hordes of tourists descended upon this small island nation, there were the fish.

“Fish,” said Gisli Palsson, a professor of anthropology at the University of Iceland, “made us rich.” The money Iceland earned from commercial fishing helped the island, which is about the size of Kentucky, become independent from Denmark in 1944.

But warming waters associated with climate change are causing some fish to seek cooler waters elsewhere, beyond the reach of Icelandic fishermen.
Ocean temperatures around Iceland have increased between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years.
For the past two seasons, Icelanders have not been able to harvest capelin, a type of smelt, as their numbers plummeted.
The warmer waters mean that as some fish leave, causing financial disruption, other fish species arrive, triggering geopolitical conflicts.

Worldwide, research shows the oceans are simmering.
Since the middle of last century, the oceans have absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions.
To beat the heat, fish are moving toward cooler waters nearer the planet’s two poles.

Last year, the capelin fishery, the country’s second most economically important export fishery, was closed for the winter fishing season on the recommendation of Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, which cited a decline in fish populations it attributed to unusually warm waters.

Capelin is caught and then sold both for direct consumption (its flavor is said to resemble herring), for fish meal and for its roe, or eggs, commonly called masago.
In 2017 the country’s largest bank, Landsbankinn, valued the fishery at roughly $143 million.
Last month, the research institute recommended keeping the capelin fishery closed for a second winter season.

“They moved farther north where there are colder seas,” said Kari Thor Johannsson, who, like many Icelanders of a certain generation, fished on family boats when he was younger.
These days you can find him, behind the counter of his fish store in Isafjordur.

Kari Thor Johannsson, who grew up fishing and now runs a fish shop in Isafjordur, with a cod.

“For the first time last winter, we didn’t fish because the fish moved,” said Petur Birgisson, a fishing captain whose trawler is based out of Isafjordur.
With 2,600 residents, it is the largest community in the Westfjords, a region that is still heavily invested in fishing.
Over the years he has adjusted to a series of changes, including the development of a quota system that allows individuals and companies the right to catch, process and sell a predetermined amount of fish each year.
But he can’t conceive of an Iceland without fish.

If there aren’t fish, he said, “we can’t live in Iceland.”

The concern is not just limited to capelin.
Blue whiting is increasingly moving farther north and west into the waters near Greenland.
And cod, which this year brought in record profits of $1 billion, feed on capelin.
But Mr.
Birgisson said the best place to fish for cod was where warmer ocean temperatures meet colder ocean temperatures, and that is increasingly moving north in keeping with global patterns.

Different species of fish evolved to live in specific water temperatures, with some fish like sea bass requiring the temperate ocean climates like those found off the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and tropical fish like the Spanish hogfish preferring warmer waters such as those in the Caribbean.
But these days, fishermen are finding sea bass in Maine and the Spanish hog fish in North Carolina.
And as the fish flee they are leaving some areas, like parts of the tropics, stripped of fish entirely.

What’s more, fish “need more oxygen when the temperature is higher,” said Daniel Pauly, a professor of aquatic systems at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia, but warmer water holds less oxygen than colder water.

The fish are swimming for their lives, according to Jennifer Jacquet, an associate professor of environmental studies at N.Y.U.
“They are moving in order to breathe,” she said.

A mural at the Reykjavik Maritime Museum.

Unloading a catch at Bolungarvik harbor in the Westfjords of Iceland.

Petur Birgisson, a fishing captain whose boat operates out of Isafjordur, with a map showing fish movements around Iceland.

In colder climates, like Iceland, as fish like capelin head north other fish that were previously found farther south move into their waters.

“Mackerel and monkfish used to be south of the country,” said Kari Thor Johannsson.
“But now they are up here or west of the country where it used to be colder.”

As fish cross political boundaries, that can create a platform for conflict.

In the case of Atlantic mackerel, the fishery is comanaged by Norway, the Faroe Islands and the European Union.
The mackerel’s arrival in significant numbers in Icelandic waters in 2005 shifted the relationship.

“A lot of fisheries management is about allocation between groups.
So everybody’s fighting for a piece of the pie,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In the ensuing discussions Britain would accuse Iceland of stealing its fish, a Norwegian civil servant would accuse Iceland of making up its own rules, and all of the parties would accuse each other of varying degrees of fighting dirty.

Working on the nets on Captain Birgisson’s boat, the Ásdis.

Cod, which brought $1 billion in profit to Icleand last year, on the deck of the Ásdis.
They feed on capelin, which are moving north in search of colder waters.

Crew members on the Ásdis waiting for the next haul.

“It doesn’t just stay as a fisheries management conflict,” said Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University.

“In the Iceland case it also spilled over and became a trade war,” he said.
“It affected international negotiations and seems to be part of the reason that Iceland decided not to join the European Union.”

The negotiations between Norway, the Faroe Islands, the European Union and Iceland over mackerel never came to a consensus, partly because the fish migrated into waters where Iceland has exclusive fishing rights and the nation chose to unilaterally set its own quotas.
This year it raised its mackerel quota by 30 percent, to 140,000 tons from 108,000 tons.

At a meeting in October, the European Union and the two other countries criticized Iceland’s behavior, saying, “Such action, which has no scientific justification, undermines the efforts made by the European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands to promote long-term sustainability of the stock.” Greenland and Russia, which are also setting unilateral mackerel quotas, were also criticized, but less forcefully.

The rebukes are reminiscent of those that contributed to a series of conflicts, known as the cod wars, between Iceland and Britain from the late 1940s until 1976.
The British conceded when Iceland threatened to withdraw from NATO and deprive the bloc of a then-critical ally.

A study led by Sara Mitchell, a professor of political science at the University of Iowa, found that, since World War II, a quarter of militarized disputes between democracies have been over fisheries.

So while fishery management problems have long existed, climate change is exacerbating conflicts.
Many fisheries that weren’t shared in the past are now straddling borders as fish move.
Dr.
Pinksy is a co-author of a study that found that there will be roughly 35 percent more fisheries that straddle boundaries by 2060 if we fail to rein in emissions.

“So now two countries have access to this population where in the past only one did, and what we’ve found is that we’re just not very good about starting to share,” Dr.
Pinksy said.
“I was in Dakar in West Africa and I said, ‘you know that your fish are moving toward Mauritania,’ which is north of Senegal in West Africa,” Dr. Pauly said.
The response he received was: “‘Let’s catch them, let’s catch them before they get there.’ This was a naïve kind of response that you will find everywhere.”

Preparing fish for storage below deck on the Einar Halfdans.

Sunset on the small fishing town of Bolungarvik in the Westfjords.

Kari Thor Johannson with customers in his shop in Isafjordur.

In the tropics, this issue is especially acute because, as fish head toward the poles, they aren’t replaced, creating a food vacuum.
In some tropical countries, which emit a tiny fraction of greenhouse gases compared with countries farther north, fish provide as much as 70 percent of people’s nutrition according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

“My mom is from Ghana, my dad is from Nigeria, and I tell you that for many people along the coast the only animal protein they get to eat is fish — and the fish are moving,” said Rashid Sumaila, the director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia.

Not only does this have huge consequences for the people living in those regions, he said, it also has global implications, because the lack of a critical food source may cause people to move.

While Iceland is still able to fish in the wild, albeit for different species, fish farming seems an increasingly attractive option.
In 2017, the country harvested 23,000 tons of farmed fish, according to government data, though fish farming also comes with environmental concerns.

Fishing is “dangerous work — I don’t want my kids to be at sea,” said Saethor Atli Gislason, standing on his fishing boat in Bolungarvik, a town roughly 10 miles north of Isafjordur.
While he still fishes in summer, his father works in a fish farm.

“Fish farms are a good job,” he said.
“We have to start fish farms because we cannot count on the sea,” echoed Petur Birgisson.

A view from the Einar Halfdans at sea.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

France & misc. (SHOM) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

204 nautical raster charts updated & 9 new chart editions

New maps of salinity reveal the impact of climate variability on oceans



From ESA

Since the saltiness of ocean surface waters is a key variable in the climate system, understanding how this changes is important to understanding climate change.
Thanks to ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, scientists now have better insight into sea-surface salinity with the most complete global dataset ever produced from space.

If you’re a keen sea-swimmer, you may have noticed that the water can be saltier in some places than others.
This is because the saltiness of the water depends on nearby additions of freshwater from rivers, rain, glaciers or ice sheets, or on the removal of water by evaporation.

The salinity of the ocean surface can be monitored from space using satellites to give a global view of the variable patterns of sea-surface salinity across the oceans.

Unusual salinity levels may indicate the onset of extreme climate events, such as El Niño.
Global maps of sea-surface salinity are particularly helpful for studying the water cycle, ocean–atmosphere exchanges and ocean circulation, which are all vital components of the climate system transporting heat, momentum, carbon and nutrients around the globe.

A new and ongoing project for ESA’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI) – a research programme dedicated to generating accurate and long-term datasets for 21 Essential Climate Variables, required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – has generated the most complete global dataset of sea-surface salinity from space to date.

“The project aims to make a significant improvement to the quality and length of the datasets available for monitoring sea-surface salinity across the globe,” says Susanne Mecklenburg, head of ESA’s Climate Office.
“We are keen to see this new dataset used and tested in a variety of applications, particularly to improve our understanding of the fundamental role that oceans have in climate.”


The research team, led by Jacqueline Boutin of LOCEAN and Nicolas Reul of IFREMER, has merged data from three satellite missions to create a global timeseries that spans nine years, with maps produced every week and every month at a spatial resolution of 50 km.

They used observations of brightness temperature to derive sea-surface salinity from microwave sensors onboard the SMOS, Aquarius, and Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite missions.

Dr Boutin said, “By combining and comparing measurements between the different sensors, the team has been able to improve the precision of maps of sea-surface salinity by roughly 30%.”

Salinity measurements taken since the 1950s indicate that globally, the more saline areas of the ocean are becoming saltier, and the freshwater areas are becoming fresher.
The data for this, however, are relatively coarse, taken by ships.

It is only since the beginning of the 21st century that ocean floats called Argo have been installed, on average every 300 km, to provide subsurface salinity vertical profiles between approximately 5 m and 2000 m depth at 10-day intervals.

“Monitoring salinity from space helps to resolve spatial and temporal scales that are poorly sampled by in situ platforms that make direct observations, and fills gaps in the observing system,” says Dr Boutin.

Ocean–atmosphere exchanges are driven by winds around the globe, as well as by exchanges between the surface and subsurface ocean owing to changes in the density of the water itself.
Water density depends on both temperature and salinity.
Warm water is less dense than cold water, but salty water is denser than freshwater.
At depth, ocean circulation is powered by differences in density between masses of water.

As carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere, increasing amounts of carbon are entering the world’s oceans, which is changing the chemical balance of seawater and leading to ocean acidification.
Marine chemistry can be studied using four parameters: partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the water; dissolved inorganic carbon; alkalinity; potential of hydrogen (pH).
Two of these parameters, along with measurements of salinity and temperature, allow us to understand the complete carbon chemistry of the ocean.
Salinity and temperature can be detected from space by their effect on electromagnetic emissions from the ocean surface.
ESA’s SMOS mission provides information on ocean salinity – a key piece of the puzzle.

Studying the global changes in salinity at the ocean surface can help climate scientists to model exchanges between the atmosphere and the ocean surface and between the ocean surface and the deeper ocean layers and predict change.
Regional changes in salinity are linked to periodic inter-annual climate events such as the El Niño.
Salinity is also implicated in the intensification of the global water cycle.

To demonstrate the benefits of the new dataset, ESA’s CCI Sea Surface Salinity project is carrying out a number of climate studies.
These are focused on an improved understanding of the water cycle in the Bay of Bengal, an area prone to severe tropical cyclones, and in the Gulf of Guinea; on understanding the role of salinity on the stratification of the upper layer of the ocean and its effect on the air–sea exchanges; and on a climate variability reconstruction in the Atlantic that encompasses the recently-observed North Atlantic salinity anomaly.

The team is currently working with climate scientists to compare the new dataset with in situ observations from Argo floats and ships, and with the output from models.

The dataset is freely available for download from the CCI Open Data Portal.

Links :

Monday, December 2, 2019

Trade wars even scare the megarich – just look at Superyacht sales

photo : Balint Porneczi / Bloomberg

From Bloomberg by Michael Sasso


A rising economic tide lifts all boats, so the saying goes.
It turns out the opposite is true, too.

Even the super-rich are feeling skittish about the future lately, given a trade war between the U.S. and China, a Germany teetering on recession and bloody clashes in Hong Kong.
And that’s stoking anxiety among “superyacht” dealers, where a good day at the office means selling a $50 million vessel.

Sales of them are seen as a good barometer of the economy, because they’re discretionary and easily dropped at the first hint of recession.
That’s why the U.S. boating industry is nervous about a slump in sales this year.
Sales of freshwater fishing boats, popular with the middle class, are down about 6% in recent months compared with the same time last year.
Meantime, superyacht dealers had sold only 102 ships this year through September, and they appeared likely to come up far short of the 199 they shifted all of last year.

Ultimately, purchasing a superyacht comes down to confidence — or lack thereof — and all the turmoil around the world isn’t helping, said Thom Conboy, who sells them on behalf of Dutch shipbuilder Heesen Yachts.
Proposals for a wealth tax by some candidates for the U.S. presidency aren’t welcome, he adds.

For now, U.S. consumers are helping keep the American economy afloat.
The Conference Board’s widely followed consumer confidence gauge fell for a fourth consecutive month in November, but is still a fairly robust 125.5.
The measure hit a low point of 25.3 at the depths of the Great Recession.
So, the boating industry hopes the recent sales slowdown resulted from unusually wet and cold conditions in parts of the U.S. earlier this year, which kept buyers at home, and doesn’t foretell a future recession.


The anxiety in U.S. boating, featured in this week’s Stephanomics podcast, shows how global uncertainties including the trade war and Brexit are weighing on people’s confidence, even among the very rich.
Overall, consumer spending accounts for 70% of the U.S. economy, and America’s ability to keep recession at bay depends on their willingness to keep opening their wallets.

Charting the Trade War


Global trade will shrink through the end of the year as countries around the world continue to grapple with a manufacturing-led slowdown.
An index by freight giant DHL fell to a four year-low in November, capturing the uncertainty in the global economy amid still-elusive negotiations on a U.S-China trade deal, a slowdown in China and an industrial slump in Germany.
The gauge slipped 2 points in November to 45, moving further below the 50 level that divides contraction and expansion.

Today’s Must Reads
  • Mega-deal holdout | Japan is not considering signing a Chinese-backed regional trade pact without India, the country’s top negotiator said ahead of a series of upcoming diplomatic exchanges that include a visit to Delhi by Premier Shinzo Abe.
  • Port problems | Sri Lanka’s new government wants to undo the previous regime’s move to lease the port of Hambantota — which lies on the main shipping routes between Asia and Europe — to a Chinese venture, citing national interest.
  • Post-Brexit pacts | Prime Minister Boris Johnson could not give a figure for how many trade deals the U.K. has ready ahead of its departure from the EU. “I imagine we have about a dozen we’re currently working on,” he said, naming China, India, New Zealand and Australia as examples.
  • Rivers of soy | American soybeans that were once stranded on ships along China’s coast are coming ashore again just as Donald Trump declares the two nations are in the final throes of a trade agreement.
  • Germany’s China worry | Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government plans to tighten restrictions on foreign takeovers amid growing concerns China is scooping up Germany’s technology jewels.
  • Economic Analysis
  • Italian pain | Italy's export sector has suffered more than any other of the euro area's four largest economies: It's lost about 45% of its share of world trade since 1997.
  • Tracking Germany | Bloomberg Economics’ GDP tracker for Germany points to a slight improvement in underlying economic conditions going into the end of the year. 
Links :

Sunday, December 1, 2019

30 years ago : anniversary of the first Vendee Globe 1989-1990


The Vendée Globe 1989-1990, officially the Vendée Globe Challenge,
is the first edition of the Vendée Globe.
The start was given on November 26, 1989, in Les Sables-d'Olonne.

At the start, there were thirteen boats and seven at the finish, due to multiple retirements, which is frequent in the "Everest of the Sea" that is the Vendée Globe.
Titouan Lamazou (Ecureuil d'Aquitaine II), Alain Gautier (Generali Concorde), Jean-François Coste (Cacharel  Pen Duick III), Philippe Poupon (Fleury Michon X), Pierre Follenfant (TBS-Charente Maritime), Jean-Yves Terlain (UAP), Guy Bernardin (O-Kay), Patrice Carpentier (Le Nouvel Observateur), Loïck Peyron (Lada Poch), Mike Plant (Duracell), Bertie Reed (Grinaker), Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (36.15 MET), Philippe Jeantot (Crédit Agricole IV)

Selected clips from Loïck Peyron's video 'Petit Tour Du Monde Illustré' edited in 2008.
"The globe challenge: it is the absolute, the race of the century. Imagine yourself alone on a 18-metre long boat for 110 days. Alone in front of a camera to whom you will tell all your anguish about hitting an iceberg, your joy at finding and saving Poupon, your deliverance while passing Cape Horn."

Saturday, November 30, 2019

eXXpedition to end ocean plastic pollution


Created by Copernicus Service and Mercator Ocean for eXXpedition's North Pacific 2018 voyages 

From Mapbox by Marena Brinkhust

On Mapbox’s Community Team, I help organizations use location tools to approach environmental challenges in a lot of different ways — but I’ve never done anything like this:
This week, I’m traveling to Antigua where on Friday I’ll set sail for a week on Leg 4 of eXXpedition, a round-the-world sailing voyage to study and spur action on ocean plastic pollution.
Over two years, 300 women from around the world will sail sections of this journey, collectively circling the globe, gathering scientific data, and connecting with communities to turn the tide on plastic waste.

The world’s oceans hold an estimated 5,250 billion pieces of plastic with a combined weight of 268,940 tons.
While the problem isn’t visible to us every day, it affects all of us.
Pieces of plastics, and toxins like pesticides that attach to them, are ingested by marine organisms and travel up the food chain until they eventually end up inside our bodies.
This is especially concerning for women because of how chemicals like bisphenol-A (the backbone of many plastics) harm our reproductive systems.

By bringing together hundreds of women across disciplines — scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, artists, and activists — eXXpedition aims to draw attention to the local and global implications of the problem of plastic pollution, encouraging both individual choices and improved waste management practices that will benefit everyone.

“Through the Gyre.”
eXXpedition tracking map shows ship location, route, and modeled concentration of ocean plastic. 

Creating the eXXpedition map

Over the last few months, I’ve been working with the eXXpedition team, developers Anthony Goddard and Ryan Nevius at ZeroSixZero, and other volunteers at Mapbox to create the tracking map for eXXpedition.
We designed the map to connect eXXpedition with everyone watching from shore, and to help people explore the deeper stories and science behind the ocean circulation and plastic pollution.

 Top: Bathymetry (data: Natural Earth) and wind layers.
Bottom, ocean currents (data: CMEMS) visualized across zoom levels.

Ship location coordinates are sent by the on-board YB Tracker every six hours via a satellite connection.
The route was plotted on the custom map style, which switches into a satellite base map view at high zoom levels for planned dry land stops.

To add context to the ocean voyage, the map also includes data layers for bathymetry (ocean depth), currents, wind, and models of ocean plastic gyres (vast areas where swirls of currents concentrate a massive volume of floating debris.)

Ocean plastics pollution visualized by Dumpark

We drew styling inspiration from striking data visualizations made by Dumpark and National Geographic and the tracking map that Mapbox built with the Rebelle Rally.

Ocean plastics pollution visualized by National Geographic

On top of these data layers, each crew will be adding points to share updates and photos so people can engage further with the science and stories of eXXpedition.
We will continue to add to and refine the map as it grows over the two years of the voyage.

The most interesting part for me so far has been connecting with researchers who are modeling marine plastic accumulation including Laurent Lebreton (whose data we use in the tracking map), Marcus Eriksen, and Nikolai Maximenko.
These models use data from samples collected by past ocean expeditions.

eXXpedition will advance this research by collecting further samples of microplastics, polymer concentrations in the water and coastal sediments, and the distribution of plastics by depth.
To do this, the ship must navigate to and through gyres — and coastal waters alike to examine ocean plastic pollution from source to sea.
Marine navigation is one aspect of the voyage that I am most excited to learn about, so stay tuned for my report back on how we navigate from Antigua to Bonaire and Aruba.

Ocean plastic concentration on the part of the route I’ll be sailing.

Setting sail

Ocean plastic pollution is a daunting problem, and for years I’ve felt like there’s nothing that an individual can do to change it.
I’m excited to join eXXpedition and connect with the community of changemakers charting a course of action.
Join me and Mapbox in supporting the mission of eXXpedition:
Follow @eXXpedition on social media — and share your #eXXpedition support! (Twitter Instagram Facebook)
Donate to support eXXpedition.
Support ocean conservation organizations and local anti-plastic campaigns.
Use the SHiFT Toolkit to reduce your use of disposable plastics.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The first narco submarine ever seized off a European coast is a monster

The discovery of a submarine carrying 3,000 kg (3.3 tons) of cocaine off the coast of Spain marks a "historic" turning point in the battle against drug trafficking, Spanish authorities said on Wednesday.
Police described it as the first "narcosubmarine" to be intercepted in Europe, adding in a statement that it had been found in waters off the northwestern region of Galicia on Saturday, stuffed with 152 neatly-wrapped bales of cocaine.

From Drive by Joseph Trevithick 

This is the first time authorities in Europe have intercepted one of these vessels, which have been a staple in Latin American drug smuggling.

Spanish authorities have successfully recovered a so-called narco submarine that they seized in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the country's Galacia region this past weekend.
This is the first time any country in Europe has seized one of these smuggling vessels and it's not entirely clear how it made the thousands-of-miles-long journey from Latin America.

Spain's Guardia Civil, National Police, and Customs Service captured the craftoff Galacia on Nov.
24, 2019.
The crew had attempted to scuttle it after failing to transfer the approximately three tons of cocaine onboard to another vessel due to poor weather.
Those same conditions prevented Spanish security forces from refloating the drug sub until late the next day.
They then towed it to port and it has now been pulled out of the water for further inspection.


The Spanish authorities lifted a submarine carrying 3,500kg (7,720lb) of cocaine onto the Cangas docks on Tuesday night.
The vessel was intercepted on Monday off the coast of Aldan in Galicia.
During the operation two crew members of Ecuadorian nationality were arrested, while a third one managed to escape.
According to local sources close to the investigation, the so-called 'narcosubmarine' belongs to a powerful criminal organisation, given the high cost of the vessel, and departed from Colombia.
This is the first transoceanic submarine used for drug trafficking ever intercepted in Europe.

"Conditions at sea meant that the semi-submersible wasn’t able to deliver the drugs to a second vessel," Spanish officials said in a statement.
"Its crew members then headed towards the coast, where they scuttled and abandoned the vessel.
The maneuver was detected by a Guardia Civil patrol using night-vision goggles, who then noted the boat’s arrival point and the subsequent fleeing of its crew."

The two arrested individuals are Ecuadorian nationals.
A third member of the crew was still at large as of Nov. 27.

Though commonly referred to as narco submarines, the vast majority of these vessels, which have been steadily improving in size and capability since the 1990s, are not fully submersible.
Vessels like the one Spanish authorities captured are more appropriately described as self-propelled semi-submersibles (SPSS) or low-profile vessels (LPV).

They are mostly associated with smuggling in the Eastern Pacific, as well as, to a lesser extent, the Caribbean.
In July 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard's seizure of one of these vessels in the Eastern Pacific made national headlines after that service released a dramatic video showing a member of its boarding team leaping onto the craft and pounding on the hatch.

The narco submarine Spanish authorities seized off Galacia after they refloated it and bought it back to port

The vessel that arrived off Galacia is very large compared to most known SPSS.
Rough estimates suggest it is more than 68 feet long and nearly seven and a half feet wide in the middle.
H.I. Sutton, an author and an expert on underwater and semi-submersible craft who has extensively researched narco subs over the years, says that the design is about twice as big as a common narco sub.

The example seized off Spain still has a number of typical features, including an overall hullform that sits extremely low in the water.
The crew could see out of small, fully-enclosed cockpit toward the rear.

The narco sub also has downward curved air intakes and an exhaust with a u-shaped bend in it, which helps prevent water from getting into the engine and elsewhere inside.
These are also common features in SPSS design.

Sutton also pointed out that the overall hullform and single-engine configuration, as well as other more specific features and its overall size, were very reminiscent of another SPSS that Colombia authorities seized earlier this year in the Eastern Pacific.
That craft was just over 65 and a half feet long and around six and a half feet wide.
Nearly 1.7 tons of cocaine was found on board that vessel.
In addition, Sutton noted that specific SPSS designers and builders have specific signature styles and it is possible that these two narco subs were directly related.

In an intense chase, the US Coast Guard intercepted f4 months ago a submarine smuggling 17,000 pounds of cocaine worth about $232 million in the Pacific Ocean.

Whatever its exact origins, this new SPSS, and the cocaine it was carrying, almost certainly originated somewhere in Latin America.
How it made its way to the coast of Spain is unclear.
Spanish authorities were reportedly working together with their counterparts in Brazil, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States on the operation that led to the seizure.
A tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was reportedly critical to the success of the sting.
A substantial amount of the cocaine may have been bound for the United Kingdom, as well, according to authorities in that country, indicating that they had information about possible buyers for the shipment.

The involvement of Brazil could point to that country as a launch point for the narco submarine.
However, at its absolute shortest, the distance between the Brazilian and Galacian coasts is more than 3,600 miles.
There have been reports of low-profile narco sub designs derived from high-performance speed boats do have extended range capabilities, but nothing close to this.

'Narcosubmarine' a first for Europe, say Spanish officials

It is possible that a ship left Brazil, or another country in Latin America, with the drug sub onboard or in tow and then launched it when they got closer to Spain.
It may have even made a stop somewhere in West Africa, or islands in the Atlantic, such as Cape Verde or the Canaries.
Such an intermediate location might have also offered a place to finish assembly of the SPSS or otherwise make final preparations before heading north.

An unnamed source told Spain's El Pais newspaper that the narco sub's crew had been at sea for 20 days, but did not say where or when their voyage had begun or if they had been riding in the SPSS the entire time.

Regardless, the appearance of an SPSS from Latin America off the coast of Spain is an extremely important development.
In 2011, Spain convicted six individuals in relation to an attempt to build a narco submarine in the country that started five years earlier, with financial support from drug cartels in Colombia, with the hope that it could be used to help smuggle goods within Europe.
The vessel did make it into the water, but performed extremely poorly.
This new attempt to use the narco submarine to bring drugs into Europe in the first place is a much more ambitious undertaking and appears to have largely succeeded on a general technical level.
Had authorities not had what appears to be extensive intelligence about the smuggling effort before the SPSS' arrival off Galacia, the crew may well have scuttled it successfully and escaped unnoticed.

As the multi-national investigation into the incident continues, we will hopefully get more details about the SPSS design and how it made its way across the Atlantic.
It also remains to be seen whether or not this is the beginning of a trend in drug smuggling operations from Latin America to Europe, but it is a clear indication that the use of narco subs in those activities may be an increasingly viable tactic.

Links :

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai

 A worrying new GPS Spoofing method has been detected being used in Shanghai, China and it has everyone worried.
Nobody knows who is behind the attacks but the suspicion is the technology is so sophisticated that it must be state sponsored.
The first signs of an issue began when ship crews, manoeuvring their vessels in the congested waterways of Shanghai port observed other ship traffic, supposedly ahead of them in the shipping lane, disappearing from their navigation displays only to reappear a minute or so later apparently tied up at the dockside.
Now new research has revealed that thousands of vessels have been victim of this new type of spoofing and the most worrying aspect is experts have no idea how it is being done.

It's one thing to jam a GPS signal, but spoofing a signal in this way is much more difficult.
image : A "crop circle" of spoofed GPS locations in Shanghai that C4ADS discovered when it plotted the compromised AIS data.
source : C4ADS

From MIT TechnologyReview by Mark Harris

A sophisticated new electronic warfare system is being used at the world’s busiest port.
But is it sand thieves or the Chinese state behind it?

On a sultry summer night in July 2019, the MV Manukai was arriving at the port of Shanghai, near the mouth of the Huangpu River.
This busy tributary of the Yangtze winds through the city and includes the Bund, a historic waterfront area and tourist hot spot.
Shanghai would be the American container ship’s last stop in China before making its long homeward journey to Long Beach, California.

As the crew carefully maneuvered the 700-foot ship through the world’s busiest port, its captain watched his navigation screens closely.
By international law, all but the smallest commercial ships have to install automatic identification system (AIS) transponders.
Every few seconds, these devices broadcast their identity, position, course, and speed and display AIS data from other ships in the area, helping to keep crowded waterways safe.
The position data for those transponders comes from GPS satellites.

source : soar.earth

According to the Manukai’s screens, another ship was steaming up the same channel at about seven knots (eight miles per hour).
Suddenly, the other ship disappeared from the AIS display.
A few minutes later, the screen showed the other ship back at the dock.
Then it was in the channel and moving again, then back at the dock, then gone once more.

Eventually, mystified, the captain picked up his binoculars and scanned the dockside.
The other ship had been stationary at the dock the entire time.

When it came time for the Manukai to head for its own berth, the bridge began echoing to multiple alarms.
Both of the ship’s GPS units—it carried two for redundancy—had lost their signals, and its AIS transponder had failed.
Even a last-ditch emergency distress system that also relied on GPS could not get a fix.

Now, new research and previously unseen data show that the Manukai, and thousands of other vessels in Shanghai over the last year, are falling victim to a mysterious new weapon that is able to spoof GPS systems in a way never seen before.


Nobody knows who is behind this spoofing, or what its ultimate purpose might be.
These ships could be unwilling test subjects for a sophisticated electronic warfare system, or collateral damage in a conflict between environmental criminals and the Chinese state that has already claimed dozens of ships and lives.
But one thing is for certain: there is an invisible electronic war over the future of navigation in Shanghai, and GPS is losing.

The mystery deepens

Although the Manukai eventually docked safely, its captain was concerned enough to file a report later that day with the US Coast Guard’s Navigation Center, which collects reports of GPS outages worldwide.

“All [antenna] connections are secured and dry,” he wrote.
“There have been no other issues with these units. [I] suspect GPS signal jamming is occurring at this berth.”

In fact, something far more dangerous was happening, and the Manukai’s captain was unaware of it.
Although the American ship’s GPS signals initially seemed to have just been jammed, both it and its neighbor had also been spoofed—their true position and speed replaced by false coordinates broadcast from the ground.
This is serious, as 50% of all casualties at sea are linked to navigational mistakes that cause collisions or groundings.

When mariners simply lose a GPS signal, they can fall back on paper charts, radar, and visual navigation.
But if a ship’s GPS signal is spoofed, its captain—and any nearby vessels tracking it via AIS— will be told that the ship is somewhere else entirely.
Nor did the attacks stop once the Manukai was safely at its dock.
Several times that day, its AIS system reported that it was over three miles distant.



Half a world away from Shanghai, a tip landed on the Washington, DC, desk of a researcher at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a nonprofit that analyzes global conflict and security issues.
The new tip, from a shipping industry source, suggested that somebody was spoofing GPS signals in Shanghai.

This was the first time that C4ADS had heard of widespread maritime spoofing not obviously linked to the Russians.
A few months earlier, the organization had published a report that detailed how Russia used GPS jamming in the Crimea, the Black Sea, Syria, Norway, and Finland.
It also contained evidence that a Russian mobile electronic warfare team had been disrupting GPS signals during President Putin’s public appearances.

After receiving the tip, C4ADS looked at the AIS data, which it purchased from a startup that records AIS broadcasts around the world.
Analysts noticed that the attacks had actually started the previous summer, increasing as the months rolled on.
The most intense interference was recorded on the very day in July that the Manukai’s captain reported difficulties, when a total of nearly 300 vessels had their locations spoofed.
While the disruption was affecting ships right across Shanghai, most of those spoofed were vessels navigating the Huangpu River.

source : Wikimedias commons

And this was very different from the hacking seen in Russian waters, where vessels were all spoofed to a single point.
The Shanghai data showed ships jumping every few minutes to different locations on rings on the eastern bank of the Huangpu.
On a visualization of the data spanning days and weeks, the ships appeared to congregate in large circles.

The C4ADS researchers had never seen circular patterns like this before.
Perhaps bugs or malware in the ships’ AIS or GPS systems were causing the effect?
To rule that out, they sought data from another form of transportation completely: cycling.

China has about as many bicycles as the rest of the world combined, with nearly 10 million in Shanghai alone.
Some of the city’s cyclists use smartphone fitness apps to track their rides.
One in particular, Strava, shares a global heat map of anonymized activities from the previous two years.
Zooming in to Shanghai, C4ADS analysts could see the same mysterious riverside circles glowing on Strava’s heat map.
The spoofing attacks were affecting all GPS devices, not just those on ships.

It was time to seek some outside help.
C4ADS shared its findings with Todd Humphreys, director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin and a leading authority on GPS hacking.
Humphreys examined the data, but the closer he looked, the more confused he became.
“To be able to spoof multiple ships simultaneously into a circle is extraordinary technology.
It looks like magic,” he said.

In September, Humphreys showed a visualization of the data at the world’s largest conference of satellite navigation technology, ION GNSS+ in Florida.
“People were slack-jawed when I showed them this pattern of spoofing,” he said.
“They started to call it crop circles.”

A dangerous escalation?

To understand why the experts are baffled, consider how GPS works.
The US Air Force maintains a constellation of at least 24 Global Positioning System satellites orbiting the Earth; there are currently 31.
Each satellite broadcasts several complicated codes generated from its position and the current time, as measured by a super-accurate atomic clock on board.
Each clock is precisely synchronized with those on the other 30 satellites.

A GPS receiver detecting signals from one satellite can only calculate roughly how far it is from that satellite.
Add signals from a second satellite and it can narrow down its location considerably.
A third satellite allows it to locate itself at a given latitude and longitude, and a fourth establishes its elevation and the precise time.
Signals from more satellites increase the accuracy.

While GPS satellites broadcast several different signals intended for both military and civilian use, AIS relies on just one of them.
These signals are rather weak and can easily be drowned out—jammed—by even a modest transmitter at ground level.
They can also be spoofed by signals that mimic real GPS satellites but encode false time and position data.

In spoofing, every receiver within range usually receives the same fake signals, and thus believes itself to be in the same location.
While this is more serious than simply jamming the GPS signals, an alert captain would certainly notice if all the ships on the navigation screen suddenly jumped to the same place at the same time.

The Shanghai “crop circles,” which somehow spoof each vessel to a different false location, are something new.
“I’m still puzzled by this,” says Humphreys.
“I can’t get it to work out in the math.
It’s an interesting mystery.” It’s also a mystery that raises the possibility of potentially deadly accidents.

“Captains and pilots have become very dependent on GPS, because it has been historically very reliable,” says Humphreys.
“If it claims to be working, they rely on it and don’t double-check it all that much.”

On June 5 this year, the Run 5678, a river cargo ship, tried to overtake a smaller craft on the Huangpu, about five miles south of the Bund.
The Runavoided the small ship but plowed right into the New Glory (Chinese name: Tong Yang Jingrui), a freighter heading north.

The New Glory then lost control and veered into the riverbank, scattering pedestrians out for an evening stroll.
A small stretch of the bank collapsed, but luckily, no one was hurt.

While it’s not certain if it happened on this particular occasion, AIS data indicate that the New Glory was spoofed in Shanghai at least five times in the six months leading up to the collision, including less than two weeks before.
The data also show half a dozen attacks on other vessels in the city that same day.

Even Shanghai’s river police, the Huangpu Maritime Safety Administration (MSA), has been subjected to spoofing attacks on an almost daily basis.
The data show that one of its patrol boats was spoofed at least 394 times in nine months.

Soft gold

One possibility is that the crop circles are an escalation in a simmering electronic war in Shanghai that has put thousands of sailors, passengers, and even the river itself at risk.
For years, the MSA has been tracking and seizing ships that, while not jamming or spoofing GPS signals, have been hacking the AIS transponders that help keep Shanghai’s rivers and ports safe.
These ships have been cloning the AIS identities of other ships in order to slip in and out of the harbor unmolested by authorities.

The reason they’re doing this has to do with the cargo the New Glory was carrying when it ran aground: plain, everyday sand.

Chinese builders call it “soft gold.” Sand dredged from Yangtze River, which has the ideal consistency and composition for cement, helped fuel Shanghai’s construction boom in the 1980s and 1990s.
By the turn of the millennium, reckless sand extraction had undermined bridges, trashed ecosystems, and caused long stretches of the riverbank to collapse.
In 2000, Chinese authorities banned sand mining on the Yangtze completely.

The trade continued illicitly, however, expanding to include the illegal dredging of sand and gravel from the Yangtze estuary and the open seas near Shanghai.
By day, such ships look innocuous.
By night, they lower pipes to the riverbed to suck up thousands of tons of sand in a single session.
A full hold can be worth over $85,000.
So far in 2019, police along the Yangtze River have seized 305 sand-mining vessels and over 100 million cubic feet of sand—enough to fill over a thousand Olympic swimming pools.

The Shanghai MSA says illegal sand and gravel ships caused 23 wrecks along the Yangtze river in 2018, accounting for over half of all major accidents and killing 53 people.

 Another "crop circle" that appears on Strava's Global Heat Map.
source : strava

Under the cover of darkness, AIS can be a useful tool for a sand thief.
Ships that are not equipped or licensed for sea travel, for example, have been known to clone the AIS systems of seafaring boats to avoid detection.

Nor are sand thieves the only users of hacked AIS technology.
In June this year, an oil tanker with a cloned AIS system rammed an MSA patrol boat in Shanghai while trying to evade capture.
Police believe that it had been smuggling oil.
“Ships like this type are usually driven by illegal interests,” said an MSA official.
“Once discovered, they will fight against law enforcement and attempt to escape, posing a great threat to the water navigation environment.
We will not tolerate such ghost ships.”

The question now is, are these previous AIS hacks connected to Shanghai’s new GPS circles in some way? An effective spoofing system could be worth millions to sand thieves.
By spoofing their own ships, they could glide invisibly into port.
Or by spoofing others and creating chaos, smugglers would give themselves a better chance of slipping through unnoticed.
It could be that the ability to generate spoofed circles is an escalation in technological know-how by the sand thieves.

Of course, it could be just a coincidence that the spoofed circles are occurring at a hot spot for AIS cloning.
Another possibility is that the Chinese state itself is testing out a new electronic weapon, perhaps for eventual use in disputed regions of the South China Sea.

While the data do not identify the culprits, they do contain some clues.
The center of the spoofing circles on the Huangpu is a factory owned by Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Company, a large chemical manufacturer.
But it is not clear whether the activity is associated with the facility or it’s just the location where the ships are being spoofed to.

“I don’t think it’s some rogue actor,” says Humphreys.
“It may be connected with some experimental capability that [the Chinese authorities] are trying to test.
But I’m genuinely puzzled how this is being done.”