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New Zealand: Digital Advancements in Maritime Security

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In a significant step for maritime security, No. 5 Squadron Training Flight instructors and students showcased the advanced digital technology of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft during the recent Operation Tui Moana. This operation, aimed at monitoring illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, was a collaborative effort under the fishery intergovernmental organisation.

Image credits: nzdf.mil.nz

The Poseidon’s surveillance systems successfully recorded and reported thirty-eight vessels, including fishing, merchant, and pleasure craft, to the fishery intergovernmental organisation. Air Component Commander Air Commodore Andy Scott expressed the technological advancements and training benefits the operation provided. “Airborne surveillance and reconnaissance for maritime security, fisheries monitoring, and search and rescue are key tasks for No. 5 Squadron, and the new P-8A provides even greater range and capabilities for these tasks,” he said. “The integration of sophisticated sensors and communication systems into our operations is vital for effective maritime monitoring.”

The operation highlighted the critical role of remote sensing technology and digital data analysis. Satellite imagery, radar, and other remote sensing tools were essential in gathering intelligence across the vast six million square kilometres operation area—equivalent to the size of Australia.

Nine FFA Members (Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, and Tuvalu) participated alongside technology partners and personnel from the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (QUAD), which includes Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States. This collaboration emphasised cooperative surveillance engagements and the use of advanced digital platforms.

During the operation, over 500 vessel contacts were recorded using air, surface, and remote-sensing platforms, with 80 boardings conducted both in port and at sea. These activities demonstrated the effectiveness of automated identification systems (AIS) and other vessel tracking technologies in ensuring accurate monitoring and reporting.

Further, as OpenGov Asia reported, New Zealand has been making strides in the maritime sphere. In 2023, the New Zealand Government significantly advanced maritime operations by deploying an Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), providing a versatile platform for various roles.

The USV, named Bluebottle, was designed and manufactured by an Australian company, and it is being transported by His Majesty’s New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Aotearoa from Sydney to Auckland. This breakthrough allows maritime tasks to be conducted at sea without fuel or personnel, representing a major leap in utilising digital technology for naval operations.

Air Commodore Scott underscored the success of the intelligence-led approach driven by data analysis. “Utilising digital technology to process and analyse data enables us to make informed decisions and execute effective operational strategies. This ensures that our surveillance and reconnaissance efforts are both efficient and impactful.”

The operation exemplified the vital role of digital technology in modern maritime security, significantly enhancing the ability to detect, monitor, and respond to illegal fishing activities. This not only strengthens naval security but also contributes to the protection and sustainability of marine resources, showcasing a positive and promising future for technological advancements in this field.

The New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) participation in global maritime surveillance underscores its commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technology to bolster regional security. The successful deployment of the P-8A Poseidon and the integration of unmanned surface vessels highlight the NZDF’s strategic approach to enhancing operational capabilities. This approach not only improves the effectiveness of maritime patrols but also demonstrates New Zealand’s leadership in utilising digital technology for comprehensive maritime security.

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