8 March 2023: Off the Coast of Africa

The Office of Naval Intelligence reports that pirates, armed robbers and kidnapping for ransom (KFR) groups continue to operate off Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo, targeting a variety of vessels to include tankers, container ships, general cargo vessels, fishing vessels, passenger vessels and vessels supporting oil drilling/production. These groups have boarded vessels up to 275 nautical miles from shore, and it is not uncommon for these groups to fire upon vessels during boardings and attempted boardings. KFR groups generally kidnap senior crew members, including the master and chief engineer, and any Western or foreign crew members. Kidnapped crew members are normally taken ashore in the Niger Delta region where KFR groups demand ransom payments in exchange for the safe return of the crew members.


6 February 2023: Daebichi Island, South Korea

Nine people went missing in a South Korean boat incident. A search was conducted by the Coast Guard from the southwestern port city of Mokpo in South Korea. The fishermen’s boat capsized near the southwestern coast and reports said that three crew members were rescued but nine others went missing. The three were saved by a commercial ship near Daebichi Island. The survivors said the engine room filled with water and then the 24-ton vessel capsized.


3 March 2023: In and Around the Waters of Ukraine

According to the Office of Naval Intelligence’s Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report, multiple commercial vessels have been struck by projectiles or have experienced explosions in Ukrainian ports and in the northwestern Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine.These incidents have occurred since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022. There have also been reports of naval mines, both moored and drifting, in the Black Sea. The WTS report says there is a high risk of damage to U.S.-flagged vessels in this region and advises U.S.-flagged commercial vessels to avoid entering or approaching the Sea of Azov, Ukrainian ports or Ukrainian territorial waters in the northwestern Black Sea unless participating in the UN Black Sea Grain Initiative. Vessels operating in these areas may encounter GPS interference, AIS spoofing and/or other communications jamming the report states.


17 March 2023: Off the Coast of Texas

The Coast Guard interdicted a lancha crew and seized 600 pounds of illegally caught fish in federal waters off southern Texas. A Coast Guard Station South Padre Island boat crew, in coordination with Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi and Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi aircrews, located and stopped a lancha with three Mexican fishermen engaged in illegal fishing. After interdicting the lancha, Coast Guard personnel seized 600 pounds of red snapper, along with fishing gear, radios, GPS devices and high flyers on board. Coast Guard crews detained the Mexican fishermen and transferred them to border enforcement agents for processing.


HappyOrNot Launches Next Gen Smiley Feedback Terminal with AI-powered Facial Analysis Software

Instant customer feedback insights company, HappyOrNot, has launched what it is calling its most advanced feedback product: an updated version of its Smiley Touch terminal, already present in airports and retail spaces around the world, now enhanced by artificial intelligence.

Accumulating over a billion feedback responses since its launch, HappyOrNot’s range of smiley-faced terminals serve over 4,000 brands in 135 countries including Amazon, Google, Aramark, and Miami Airport.

Upgrading its popular Smiley Touch product, the new terminal uses a built-in camera system and AI software to unlock and connect in-moment anonymous feedback data with respondent(s) demographic information. The demographic analysis works by converting and mapping facial features into numerous data points to form a vector. The anonymized vector is then analyzed by the AI to estimate the feedback provider’s age and gender — with up to a 95% accuracy rate.

Unlike facial recognition tools, HappyOrNot’s updated Smiley Touch terminal does not identify the individual, instead its only purpose is to analyze a silhouetted vector, which is specifically designed to hide the respondent’s identity.

The company calls this an “unprecedented innovation” in the market, that can help create value and new insights, especially in retail. At a time of economic uncertainty, the new product aims to help businesses make better informed decisions that result in positive operational impact. Already adopted by leading European retail chain XXL Sport & Villmark and Canadian pharmacy chain MacQuarries, the upgraded terminals provide a faster way for businesses to gather detailed information, and crucially, better understand how to meet the unique needs of their target audiences.

Gathering encrypted and anonymous data from the terminals, businesses can also gain a better understanding of the satisfaction levels for specific user groups. The layering of demographics analytics on top of real-time feedback data, supports them to make and measure operational changes that target and add value to specific groups of customers.

“We know that when it comes to customer loyalty, all it takes is one good or bad experience. Yet, providing a personalized service can be challenging when you have customers ranging from 16 to 80. Adding demographics data will allow businesses to better understand their target markets through the feedback provided by their customers.” said Miika Mäkitalo, CEO of HappyOrNot, “Our priority has always been to make customer feedback more digestible, and this latest version will go a long way in providing another layer of context for businesses. This new capability is brilliant for our customers, and I’m very pleased that we are the first in the market to deliver this innovation.”

Using the most advanced technology, HappyOrNot’s new terminal complements its range of innovative feedback solutions aimed at boosting omnichannel customer engagement. To improve accuracy, businesses can also turn on the camera operated feedback guard that recognizes and filters out multiple feedback responses from the same individual in a short period of time. On track to reach 2bn feedback responses by 2024, the upgraded terminals will join other marquee products such as web-based integration Smiley Digital and touchless URL and QR-code solution Smiley Link.

“By combining demographic data with customer satisfaction data, retailers can create a more detailed and nuanced picture of their customers and use this information to make informed business decisions.” explains Kenneth Røsseth-Sørensen, Strategy & Business Development at XXL Group.“For example, a retailer might use this data to identify specific customer segments that are particularly satisfied or dissatisfied with their products or services, and tailor their marketing and customer service strategies accordingly. This can help retailers improve customer loyalty and retention, and ultimately drive sales and revenue.”


16 November 2022: East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Around 240 people were rescued and at least 17 died (an updated figure as initially it was reported that 14 had died) when a boat caught fire off the coast of Indonesia. Three boats, as well as local fishermen, came to the scene to assist in the rescue efforts, authorities said. No word on the cause of the fire which is being investigated. The KM Express Cantika 77 was headed to Kalabahi from Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara province when it caught fire. Some passengers jumped overboard during the panic.


10 November 2022: Neches River

A state licensed pilot from the Sabine Pilots took navigational control of the Gas Ares as it was heading to a loading dock on the Neches River. Due to wind conditions, the pilot planned to have an escort tug for the transit through the Sabine Neches Canal and Neches River. After the pilot arranged a passing with a tow, the pilot ordered the Gas Ares to dead slow ahead to avoid making a wake as the carrier passed a pipeline removal project to starboard near the shoreline (outside of the navigation channel). Winds were strong on the carrier’s starboard side, slowly setting the vessel—which was already on the left side of the 400-foot-wide channel for the passing arrangement with the tow—further toward the left side of the channel toward vessels moored at docks on that side of the channel. With the reduction of the ship’s speed, the Gas Ares’s rudder became less effective, and was not able to move the vessel to starboard and away from the moored vessels on the left side of the channel by rudder and engine alone or by using the escort tug to pull on the vessel’s starboard quarter. Without enough headway, the pilot was unable to steer the vessel back to the center of the channel and avoid striking the outboard moored tug. The NTSB determined the probable cause of the collision was the pilot’s decision to reduce the vessel’s speed in order to create less wake when passing a pipeline removal project, causing a loss of rudder effectiveness in strong crosswinds that set the carrier toward moored vessels.


4 November 2022: France, Algeria, Guinea

In a case that demonstrates the great risks faced by migrants that resort to smugglers, an eight-year-old boy has been rescued by law enforcement after being kidnapped by fellow migrants and held for ransom. The boy and his mother had left Côte d’Ivoire in early 2021, hoping to make the journey to Europe. They travelled to Tunisia, where a smuggler promised to help them and a group of Guinean migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, the smuggler took their money and disappeared. In October 2021, convinced that the mother and smuggler had been accomplices since they shared the same nationality, the other migrants kidnapped the then seven-year-old boy and demanded $3,000 for his safe return. After the boy’s mother reported the kidnapping to authorities in Côte d’Ivoire, the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) in Abidjan turned to INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants (HTSM) unit for assistance. Authorities in Algeria located the boy and arrested one suspect in the outskirts of Algiers. A medical screening confirmed that the child had not suffered any direct physical violence or sexual abuse during the ordeal. In parallel, Guinean police located and arrested the suspect who had sent the ransom demand to the boy’s mother.


11 November 2022: Toulon, France

France allowed the Ocean Viking rescue ship that was carrying more than 200 migrants and refugees rescued in the Mediterranean to dock at their port of Toulon. This followed terse communications with Italy over the fate of the vessel. Gerald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, said that the Italian government’s ban on the boat was “incomprehensible” and “selfish.” “In this context, France decided on an exceptional basis to make up for the Italian government’s unacceptable behavior and to invite the ship to come to the military port of Toulon,” Darmanin said at a news conference. Of the 234 people on board, including 57 children, France agreed to accept a third, Germany another third and the rest are to be taken in by other European Union countries. The situation caused France to say they will discard an agreement with Rome to take in more than 3,000 migrants and refugees who had come to Italy previously. France also says it will reinforce controls at its borders with its southeastern neighbor. “France very deeply regrets that Italy has decided not to behave like a responsible European state,” Darmanin said and added, “there will be extremely strong consequences” for France’s bilateral relationship with Italy over the issue.


17 November 2022: Lower Mississippi River

An electrical generator set (genset) failure and subsequent loss of steering led to the grounding of a towing vessel near Greenville, Mississippi, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday. The towing vessel Marquette Warrior was pushing 35 loaded dry cargo barges down the Lower Mississippi River on Nov. 21, 2021, when several barges grounded on the riverbank. Four barges were damaged, including a hopper barge with bean cargo that partially sank. None of the nine people on board the Marquette Warrior were injured. The grounding resulted in $1.24 million in damages to the vessel, barges and cargo. As the vessel was transiting, the engineer saw flickering lights and a ground fault indication on the main switchboard. The engineer contacted the pilot in the wheelhouse to request the pilot stop the vessel so he could troubleshoot what he suspected was a problem with the electrical system. The pilot was not able to stop the vessel due to the size of the tow and its location. The engineer identified an issue with the online port electrical genset. At the same time, the pilot noticed that he had lost steering control. Hearing that the vessel had lost steering, the engineer decided to switch online gensets, which necessitated a temporary loss of the towboat’s electrical power. Although the engineer resolved the electrical issue by switching gensets and restored steering relatively quickly, the loss of steering in the swift current and limited maneuverability of the large tow prevented the pilot from avoiding grounding. Electricians’ analysis of the genset’s alternator following the grounding indicated that the most likely cause of the failure was rubbing or chaffing of the sensing wiring harness, which led to arcing between terminal block posts, heat buildup, insulation failure and eventual winding ring terminal connection failure. NTSB investigators determined it is likely the chaffing of the wiring harness took place over the 72 hours the genset ran between a November 7 maintenance inspection and the grounding on November 21. The NTSB determined the probable cause of the grounding was a loss of steering, likely due to a wiring harness within an electrical generator that was improperly positioned during a maintenance inspection, resulting in the harness contacting the terminal posts, eventually causing the loss of 3-phase electrical power to the steering pump motors. “Proper operation and maintenance of electrical equipment is required to avoid damage to vessel critical systems and prevent potentially serious crew injuries, particularly for electrical systems with high and medium voltage and equipment with uninsulated and exposed components,” the report said. “Electrical equipment should be installed, serviced, and maintained by qualified personnel familiar with the construction and operation of the equipment and the hazards involved.”