they’re jammin’

“How to Steal a Ship” will be one of the presentations at a U.S. Department of Transportation workshop on the 3rd of December. The event will feature speakers from Maersk, the U.S. Coast Guard, MARAD, and the department’s Research and Technology arm, among others.

Jamming, blocking signals, and spoofing – sending false signals to make a receiver report it is in a false location – have been increasing concerns for maritime operators over the last five years. A study by the German research institute DLR found interference on GPS frequencies during every phase of a year-long voyage between Europe, the Far East and back. In 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard brought interference with GPS signals as an “urgent issue” to the International Maritime Organization.

While certainly a concern for ship operators, interference with GPS has also become a problem for every part of the maritime supply chain including rail, trucking, and port cargo handling. Criminals regularly use GPS jamming to disable tracking devices when hijacking trucks, stealing cargo, and shipping stolen vehicles in containers. Port operations around the nation are periodically interrupted when truckers, wanting to defeat fleet tracking systems, bring GPS jammers into a port area. Unfortunately, a lack of monitoring systems and commercial concerns mean that reports of these kinds of incidents are difficult to detect and usually not publicly available. Read on.