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Dark Shipping

The Deep Insight Resource for Dark Shipping, AIS Spoofing & Manipulation, & Space-Based Maritime Monitoring

What is Dark Shipping?

"Dark Shipping" is ​a term used to describe a vessel operating with its Automatic Identification System (AIS) turned off. AIS transponder systems transmit a ship's position at sea, alongside identification data and other useful information that vessels and maritime authorities can reference. When a ship's AIS transponder is off, it operates "in the dark" or unmonitored - a strategy used to circumvent vessel tracking and support tactical-level activities such as sanctions avoidance, illegal trade, human trafficking, and other actions that do not comply with maritime law.


Read more about Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) here.

Dark Shipping Impacts

Dark Shipping navigates numerous industries, supporting unethical and unlawful operations around the globe.  

Shipping containers at seaside port signifying how dark shipping is used for sanctions evasion

Sanctions evasion tactics comprise everything from dark ship-to-ship (STS) transfers at sea to unmonitored and unreported port calls for illicit trade - most often involving oil, liquified natural gas (LNG), and military equipment. 

Illegal (IUU) fishing ships that use dark shipping gathered together at sea

IUU fishing activities violate national and international law, threaten food security, undermine conservation efforts, and put legally operating and sustainable fisheries at an economic disadvantage.

Three men aboard a dark ship being arrested for human trafficking

Human trafficking networks facilitate migrant smuggling, forced or low-wage labor, terrorist activities, and much more.

Drug packages floating in the sea

Criminal organizations use everything from commercial cargo boats to narco submarines to get their products across borders, and these operations commonly involve murder, weapons trade, and human trafficking.

Test tube with ocean water signifying the negative environmental impacts of dark shipping

Dark shipping wreaks havoc on marine ecosystems, natural resources, and biological populations - affecting everything from conservation efforts to migration patterns of marine animals.

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