Denmark’s first commercial satellite operator launches VDES in Africa

Danish satellite operator Sternula signed a unique partnership agreement with the maritime authority in Ghana in June. Now, the partnership – which aims to strengthen the maritime sector in all of West Africa – has officially put the project in motion. The frontrunning project will work as a catalyst for future distribution of next generation AIS technology.

In June, Denmark’s first commercial satellite operator, Sternula, and Ghana Maritime Authority virtually shook hands on a new partnership that will strengthen maritime navigation and safety in the Gulf of Guinea on Africa’s west coast. Now, for the first time, the key players of the project have been gathered physically in Ghana to launch the strategic partnership.

Sternula’s role in the project is as the provider of next generation Automatic Identification System (AIS 2.0), also referred to as VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) – a technology that eases communication between vessels and authorities on land. The ambition of the project is not only to strengthen the maritime sector of Ghana, but also to have a model for future implementation of satellite based AIS 2.0 in other areas.

“As the name indicates, AIS 2.0 is the next generation of the current AIS infrastructure which is used for position tracking by more than 200,000 vessels. Our innovative satellite network communicates with vessels via a standard VHF antenna, which has paved the way for a new connectivity solution which is affordable to anyone. Even small Ghanian fishing vessels located far from shore will be visible and contactable. For authorities, this will mean cost savings on otherwise expensive coastal radio stations that often have insufficient coverage,” explained Sternula CEO, Lars Moltsen.

“We are very pleased to finally initiate the partnership. Partly because the maritime industry in West Africa has an enormous potential for utilisation of satellite based e-navigation technology due to the large amount of sea-based trade in the region. But, also because we now will be at the forefront of developing AIS 2.0-based services, which will potentially play an important role in maritime digitalisation on a global scale,” said Moltsen.

The AIS 2.0 solution continues to attract attention from other seafaring nations. During the three-day visit in Ghana, Sternula attended both technical meetings with the Ghana Maritime Authority, but also an open workshop with official representatives from South Korea, Morocco and the Seychelles among other nations.

“First and foremost, we wish to add value to the Ghanian authorities’ ambitious plans for the region. Furthermore, it is our hope that the project works as a catalyst for similar projects. Therefore, we are happy to realize that our visit to Ghana has already resulted in new partnerships between representatives attending the open workshop. Among other positives things, South Korea has shown great interest in working alongside Danish companies and authorities,” stated Moltsen.

Sternula’s innovative AIS 2.0 infrastructure will be globally available from 2023 after the first of 60 satellites is launched next year.

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