Reading this article, and the responses that followed, struck a strange chord with me. As a federal Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) analyst, my view of data and information is pretty simple- the more the better. The more information we have, the better awareness we have, and the better decisions we can make. This applies to just about any decision that needs to be made, whether it is a course change to avoid another vessel (the original purpose of AIS) or perhaps knowing what other vessels are out there to assist when encountering difficulties- say spotting potential pirates.
Simply said, information is power. The question needs to be asked, is this information more powerful in the hands of pirates or in the hands of friendly commercial vessels and the coalition forces operating in the area? What presents the greatest danger- too much information, or to little?
Take, for example, the article gCaptain posted about the vessel [I]Steve Irwin, [/I]“When the hunter become the hunted: Sea Shephard outruns Somali pirates.” As the article notes, upon their encounter with pirates, the [I]Steve Irwin [/I]was able to outrun the approaching skiffs, and subsequently sent the information about the encounter to nearby naval forces. Interestingly, the article notes the [I]Steve Irwin [/I]was also mistaken by the U.S. naval forces as a Dutch vessel (was their AIS on?). In both cases, the exchange of information helped develop a more accurate picture, and enhanced awareness (i.e. MDA), of what was happening and what the threat was.
Ultimately, just as important the information that is available is the action taken. Certainly pirates can use it to target vessels and easily identify their next victim. Just as easily, vessels can use that information to identify who else is transiting those waters, who is friend or foe, and who can call on for assistance if they are under attack.
For those that operate on or around the water, you know you can’t have full awareness of what is going on around you without accurate information. Just check out the latest mishap report and it will be easy to see the consequences. Then the question remains the same…which is more dangerous, too much information or too little?