Xerra aids NZ’s COVID-19 maritime border security

Starboard Maritime Intelligence program

Xerra's Starboard Maritime Intelligence program to monitor vessels entering New Zealand's waters. Image: Xerra.

COVID-19 has changed many facets of people's lives in Aotearoa New Zealand. Although kiwis have enjoyed relative freedom in recent months, maintaining vigilance at New Zealand's maritime borders whilst minimising disruptions to trade is a challenging endeavour.

Xerra Earth Observation Institute, an independent research institute with expertise in satellite data, has been awarded $850,000 through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE’s) COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund to support border security efforts in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. The funding will be used to accelerate the delivery of two maritime border security tools in their Starboard Maritime Intelligence platform.

The first of these tools will allow them to automatically assess arriving vessels for risk of COVID-19 by simulating the likelihood of infected crew based on the vessel’s historical travel movements, including port visits and duration at sea. The model underpinning this automated analysis tool is being developed by Xerra’s principal scientist, Dr Dave Kelbe, in collaboration with Professor Nick Wilson and other leading epidemiologists at the University of Otago, using real-time data from Johns Hopkins University on daily COVID-19 infection rates around the globe.

In addition, funding will be used to develop new methodologies for detecting non-reporting small vessels arriving unannounced at our maritime borders using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar and optical satellite data.

The team at Xerra are working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and New Zealand Customs Service to better understand how the intelligence they generate through both of these tools can help inform existing and future border security procedures at our ports and marinas. Xerra hopes that these tools will help protect New Zealand from COVID-19 outbreaks arising from the maritime border, including the protection of front-line staff and their whānau (family). This work should also help seafarers who currently face major restrictions when in port, with many having gone for months without any shore leave.

Further information

Find out more about Xerra.

Date posted: 20 November 2020

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