Using AIS Data to validate stolen grain sales

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Evidence of illegal grain shipments and sales continues to mount.

Financial Times reporters Chris Cook and Polina Ivanova, with the assistance of the Bosphorus Observer, recently followed a single shipment of grain carried by a Syrian-flagged ship, the Pawell.

Where there’s smoke…

Ukrainian farmers and grain warehouse managers tell of crops stolen by the Russia; specifically, the State Grain Operator, an entity specifically created by the Russian government to move grain from Ukraine to port, and then arrange for its sale abroad. One Russian businessman insisted that his grain didn’t come from a sanctioned port, but satellite data disputed his claim.

Despite the ever-present threat of sanctions, discovery and pursuit of ships by Ukraine, vessels continue to transport illegal goods through the Black Sea. Syrian-flagged ships are often seen being loaded at sanctioned ports before heading directly to Syria.

There’s fire

The Financial Times corroborated this suspicious shipping activity using paperwork, satellite data, transponder signals, eyewitnesses, and interviews with traders and smugglers.

Through a process of elimination supported by Spire data, two ships that could have traveled to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian port of Berdyansk were identified, one at a grain terminal. These were then narrowed down to a single vessel, as the other was involved in smuggling from a different occupied port.

Benjamin Franklin said: “Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.” In the case of tracking dark vessels, satellite data is that candle.


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