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Understanding AIS Spoofing: The Case of the Blazers

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The case of the Panama-flagged vessel, Blazers (IMO 9307645) provides a compelling example of AIS spoofing, a deceptive practice that has significant implications for maritime security and trade. This blog post delves into the details of this case to shed light on the impact and implications of AIS spoofing in the shipping industry.



According to vessel-tracking signals, the very large crude carrier, Blazers, spent an extensive period drifting in ballast in international waters off Angola’s coastline. However, a closer analysis of the pattern, course, and speed over ground transmitted during this period reveals a troubling discovery – the VLCC had manipulated its Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals. This deceptive and illicit behavior is commonly associated with tankers loitering off Cabinda, Angola, as they make their way to Venezuela to load oil.



Deceptive Practices

Blazers managed to load and ship at least three Venezuelan cargoes while giving the appearance of calling at the destination only once. This discrepancy was particularly conspicuous after the temporary lifting of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and shipping sector by the US. The cargoes were either shipped directly to China or via ship-to-ship transfers at Malaysian anchorages for onward shipment on another tanker.

The vessel's journey took it around the Cape of Good Hope in ballast, arriving off Cabinda, Angola, where it blended in with manipulated signals while actually sailing to Venezuela. This misrepresentation continued until early October, portraying an unlikely trajectory that raised red flags.



Trail of Deception

By the end of October, Blazers was once again sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, and this time, its AIS accurately tracked the voyage, indicating that it was now fully laden. However, the vessel never called at any of the numerous FPSOs or oil terminals around Angola, where a proper AIS signal would have been required. There were brief detours at Port Klang anchorage in Malaysia and Singapore’s inner anchorage, possibly to receive supplies.

The voyage that lasted nearly five months culminated in discharge tracked at Lanshan port, China, at the Shihua petrochemical terminal, where the oil giant Sinopec holds a 50% interest. This extensive journey, marked by manipulated AIS signals and deceptive practices, had far-reaching consequences for Blazers.



The American Club removed insurance from Blazers, along with approximately 15 other tankers identified as engaging in sanctioned oil trades in December 2023. This development underscores the severe repercussions faced by vessels involved in deceptive activities such as AIS spoofing.



The case of Blazers serves as a stark reminder of the challenges posed by AIS spoofing in the maritime industry. The deliberate manipulation of vessel-tracking signals not only compromises the integrity of maritime data but also raises concerns regarding security, trade transparency, and compliance with international regulations. It underscores the need for heightened vigilance, technological advancements, and regulatory measures to combat such deceptive practices and safeguard the integrity of global maritime operations.

For many screening professionals it is extremely difficult to reliably identify spoofing, which is why Lloyd’s List Intelligence have introduced a ground-breaking methodology to help you accurately detect this deceptive activity for all major vessel types, globally.

Using Seasearcher Advanced Risk & Compliance to detect spoofing will help you:

  • Enhance Screening Processes: Seamlessly integrate advanced spoofing detection to fortify your compliance protocols.
  • Real-time Identification: Save valuable time by leveraging real-time data to promptly uncover spoofing attempts.
  • Reduce False Positives: Streamline your risk assessment by minimizing false positives and focusing on genuine threats.
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