An Innovation in Information Sharing
By Dialogo January 01, 2011
Maritime threats that arise in the Western Hemisphere are often transregional, but in past years information sharing has been limited.
In an era when drug traffickers and other criminal organizations are using cutting-edge technology to transport illicit goods, nations are finding that if they share information in a common network they can more effectively track and confront new challenges.
In 2007, U.S. Southern Command began a project aimed at supporting maritime security efforts and expanding information sharing and collaboration. The relatively new effort to fuse maritime domain awareness data is known as the Virtual Regional Maritime Traffic Center-Americas, or VRMTC-A. The center is the result of cooperation among USSOUTHCOM, U.S. Northern Command, the U.S. Department of Transportation and several countries in the region.
VRMTC-A has developed a network to integrate regional capabilities with the global Maritime Safety and Security Information System, or MSSIS. This Web-centric network of data automatically broadcast by many ships helps the system’s users track the movement and location of any ship linked into the system using a Web-based common operational picture. The project allows all involved the ability to achieve three key objectives of maritime security: integrate regional capabilities, develop maritime domain awareness, and provide actionable information — the ability to detect, locate, identify, intercept and interdict transnational threats throughout the region.
The integration of regional capabilities was accomplished by integrating data on vessels, cargos and crews from several sources, including U.S. and regional government agencies and commercial providers, with information from the MSSIS.
Maritime domain awareness improvements were achieved by aggregating integrated regional data into one common operational picture to be shared with all participating partners. The last objective, to provide actionable information, was accomplished by using applications to analyze data for inconsistencies and communicating these results in real time through a nonclassified information sharing and collaboration environment. The analysis and detection of such inconsistencies can tip off regional maritime authorities to potentially illicit and dangerous vessels. Ten countries participated in the initial demonstration of the project’s capabilities in Valparaiso, Chile. The Transoceanic Conference in August 2009 was the forum for the demonstration attended by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, the United States and Venezuela.
A few months later, the Chilean Navy hosted a workshop in Viña del Mar to focus on VRMTC-A governance, policy and administrative issues. The workshop established an executive committee — comprised of Brazil, Chile, Peru and the United States — to address the mission and scope of the program, and created a technical working group to oversee website design and development.
By June 2010, the program had achieved its objectives with minor improvements added to the system before the project’s successful completion in September 2010. The VRMTC-A system is available for operational use, and U.S. Southern Command and its regional partners are working to continue improving collaborative maritime domain awareness and information-sharing capabilities to confront regional threats.