Securing Libya’s coastline through persistent maritime surveillance

In the past decade, Libya has been the primary transit point for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty across the region with hopes of reaching the shores of Europe. As the summer season creates favourable weather conditions, there are clear signs that the number of migrants attempting the journey along the central Mediterranean route will spike in the coming weeks.

According to statistics released by the International Organization of Migration, more than 12,000 migrants have been rescued at sea and returned to Libya since the start of the year, with 2,000 rescued during the first two weeks of June alone. More than 600 people have died or are missing after having attempted the perilous crossing from the port cities of Tripoli, Azzawiya, and Sabratha since January.

As the European Union cuts back on maritime search and rescue operations within the Mediterranean, the Libyan authorities have been encouraged to increase their responsibility for these operations in international waters. However, the two maritime law enforcement agencies with border security and management responsibilities – the Libyan Coast Guard and Port Security (LCGPS) and General Administration for Coastal Security (GACS) – both have limited operational capacities.

While additional SAR vessels may increase the LCGPS’s ability to conduct rescue operations, it might not be sufficient to tackle the issue of overcrowded and unsafe rubber boats leaving the coastline in the first place. The use of artificial intelligence can be an innovative solution to this complex border management problem.

Over the course of the last 14 months, Rose Partners have been engaged in a transformational security sector reform programme (SSR). At the heart of the programme was the Ministry of Interior’s (MoI) request to provide strategies to secure its borders. Rose Partners have worked in collaboration with the MoI to develop key strategies, including a Counter Illegal Migration Strategy. Such strategies provide robust frameworks and the capabilities required to improve law enforcement skills and collaboration and therefore support efforts to enhance border controls.

Rose Partners works closely with a number of carefully vetted key partners when supporting our clients. One such partner is Sirius Insight.

Sirius Insight has developed an AI-powered persistent maritime surveillance network that allows the operator to rapidly detect threats and anomalies at the frontier, thereby ensuring a proactive approach to border security strategies. Having an advanced threat detection solution at one’s fingertips would allow LCGPS officers to immediately detect departing rubber boats and swiftly allocate resources for SAR operations, rather than reacting to distress calls from vessels. This solution, along with the capacity and capability building being carried out by Rose Partners presents a formidable way forward for Libya in playing its part in securing its border and the joint efforts to prevent people trafficking and illegal migration.

Such a network would dovetail perfectly with current plans to establish a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre along the Libyan coastline under the auspices of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. A persistent maritime surveillance solution powered by advanced detection algorithms might be the key to avoid unnecessary deaths and future tragedies in the Mediterranean, in addition to providing exponentially enhanced maritime situational awareness. SiriusInsight, a UK based maritime technology company with a revolutionary maritime surveillance and alerting capability, has joined forces with Rose Partners to propose and deliver this capability in Libya.

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