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Exposing the multitude of hidden high-risk voyages

More Data Storytelling

Official sanctions lists such as OFAC establish a firm red line against the highest risk vessels, flag states, owners, and operators. Any legitimate organisation that does business with these blacklisted vessels or entities – knowingly or unknowingly -- could suffer financially or reputationally.

Although these lists provide clear-cut guidance, they don’t account for the long patterns of high-risk behaviour by certain vessels, owners, and operators before their appearance on sanctions lists.

Some operators spend months or years taking part in the prohibited movement of goods and materials whilst doing all they can to conceal the high-risk activity. This creates an increasingly difficult challenge for maritime compliance risk professionals to identify, research, and record patterns of suspicious behaviour they must monitor through intelligent vessel tracking to stay ahead of the sanctions lists.

Our data shows that, for every sanctioned vessel that continues to commit probable dark port callings and dark ship-to-ship transfers, there could be three more vessels not on any sanctions list that are actively taking part in the same type of probable illicit activity.

 Sanctions alerts illustration 

This is a considerable level of risk to businesses that is real and ongoing.

Seasearcher Advanced Risk & Compliance, our most advanced vessel tracking solution for identifying an array of voyage risks and suspicious behaviour, uses Artificial Intelligence to create several layers of calculations around many of the behaviours that are known to occur around the loading, transportation, and unloading of illicit cargo.

vessel gap illustration

1. Not all AIS gaps are genuinely suspicious. But if they occur in known high-risk locations, our advanced analytics take notice.


AIS movement gap illustration


2. If the vessel goes on to loiter or perform abnormal movements that cannot be explained in operational terms, this is considered another indicator of potential additional risk.

Vessel alerts AIS illustration

3. If there are compatible vessels and ports in the proximity that can accommodate loading or unloading and, taking into account the speed and direction of the vessel, if it has time to reach them and interact with them during its dark period, this could be an increasingly serious risk indicator.

draught change vessel alert illustration

4. Lastly, if there is evidence of a change of draught as a result of the vessel interacting with another vessel or port facility during its dark period, it is flagged as a high risk voyage that should be investigated as a possible dark port calling or dark ship-to-ship transfer.


Our AI model calculates layer upon layer of evidence and circumstance to create context around vessel movement and behaviour. If these incidents are isolated and not part of a pattern, they can be noted with a lower risk indicator. But if these factors build up to create a red-flag voyage risk, it is clearly labelled with full information that is ready for assessment.

Because our database is cross-referenced, it is easy to see which of the vessels that our analytics show are taking part in high-risk voyages are on current sanctions lists and which are not.

This is how we can conclude that there are three times as many non-sanctioned vessels with high-risk voyages flagged against them -- that could be found to be dark port callings or dark ship-to-ship transfers -- as there are known sanctioned vessels committing the same type of high-risk voyages.

Seasearcher Advanced Risk & Compliance provides the right level of maritime intelligence so our customers can quickly identify the type and level of voyage risks and the vessels, owners, and operators associated with them. All of this can be accessed in one place, taking only minutes to reach a deep level of insight rather than hours or days of research and dissemination to reach the same conclusions.