While the movie “Captain Phillips” made for good entertainment, it highlighted a small sampling of the dangers fishing vessels and cargo ships face when traversing the open seas. With the help of advanced technology, the seas are becoming a little safer. Recently, VehSmart, a company that uses advanced telecommunications and information technology to provide emergency alert and location services, teamed up with Globalstar, a provider of mobile satellite and voice data services. Together the two companies will outfit 4,000 Ecuadorian fishing vessels with Globalstar’s SmartOne, a life-saving satellite tracking and emergency notification device that will hopefully make hijackings and other life-threatening emergencies at sea a thing of the past. “Through the implementation of satellite tracking devices, fishermen will feel better protected with a great[er] level of security,” says Vice Minister of Aquaculture and Fisheries, Guillermo Moran. The reality is that fishing has become one of the world’s riskiest occupations because of the combined risks of unstable elements and piracy attacks, which culminates in a high annual cost in both lives and lost or stolen property. Case in point: in 2012 alone, the Ecuadorian government reported 184 acts of piracy against its fisherman, and in 2013, it replaced 370 stolen boat motors and lost seven fisherman at sea. By implementing the SmartOne system, Ecuadorian fishermen and fisherwomen will have a means of getting help at sea when facing an emergency. By linking to Ecuador’s National Emergency Response System, the SmartOne devices will be outfitted with a proprietary panic button that any sailor can activate discreetly to summon a rescue. “We are very excited to bring this life-saving technology to the fisherman of Ecuador,” says Brian Story, CEO of VehSmart. “We will be delivering unprecedented peace of mind to the families of those that risk their lives and property every day at sea.”
The satellite devices will also provide the Ecuadorian Vice Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries with a wealth of information about the seasonal movements of the fishing fleet. Authorities will then be able to police overfishing and better protect off-limit zones, such as the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands, one of the richest and most bio-diverse ecosystems on earth.