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Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): Using OSINT Techniques to Track the Suez Canal Blockage

Updated: Mar 29

Welcome back, my aspiring OSINT experts!


The Internet is the largest repository of data in the history of the world! Learn how and where to access it to bring its power and intelligence into your hands!


Open Source Intelligence


Open source Intelligence (OSINT) is useful and applicable to so many industries, such as;


  1. Pentesting and hacking;

  2. Private Investigations;

  3. Economic analysis;

  4. Investigative journalism;

  5. Corporate Investigations, and many others.


In this series on OSINT, I attempt to cover a multitude of techniques that can be used by any or all of these industries.


The Suez Canal and Ever Given


Sometimes there is a world event of such magnitude that it warrants an independent view from publicly available, but not obvious sources. The blockage of the Suez Canal by the cargo ship Ever Given (EverGreen) is one of those. The grounding of this ship in the narrow Suez Canal is blocking billions of dollars of shipping and commerce between the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East and South Asia. This canal, first built in 1869, enables approximately 12% of global shipping to bypass the long trip around the continent of Africa saving about 2 weeks shipping time. Any blockage of this canal can severely disrupt global commerce.



Let's see what we can gather from open source intelligence sources.



Source #1: Maritime Traffic Tracking


There are a number of site s that track maritime traffic, but marinetraffic.com is my favorite. This site tracks nearly every ship by either;


  1. AIS -Automatic Identification System. Has a range of 30 miles

  2. Satellite - tracks ships over any distance using IMMARSAT

  3. Mobile Networks - tracks ships in inland waters via mobile phone networks


When you open marinetraffic.com you will see a map similar to the map below of the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa.



When you hover over a vessel, it will provide basic information about the vessel. As you can see below, this one is cargo vessel and tracked by satellite.



The color of the vessels on the map indicate the type of vessel. You can see the legend below.


Some of the ships provide more information when we hover over them such as destination. I wonder what cargo this one is carrying?


Zoom in to the Suez Canal


Now, let's use this site to track what is happening with the Ever Given cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal. We can zoom in on the map and focus on the Suez area first.

Let's next navigate to the southern end of the Suez where Ever Given is lodged sideways in the canal.



Near the center of this area, you can see a cluster of ships in the canal. Let's zoom into that region.


As you can clearly see below, there is ship sideways in the canal. You can also see other tugboats and dredging ships near by.




When we hover over the ship and click, we can see this ship is the Ever Given and get more detailed information on it.






Source #2: Satellite Images


One of the premier sources of satellite imagery is Planet Labs. From the image below from Planet Labs, we can see the Ever Given at the upper right hand corner, lodged sideways in the Suez Canal.



We can get even an even closer image of the ship from Maxar Technologies satellite images.



Additional satellite images are available from CNES Airbus.




Summary


Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a burgeoning field applicable to so many industries from pentesting to economic and geopolitical analysis. The blockage of the Suez Canal by a stranded cargo ship is a major economic and geopolitical event that we can monitor via OSINT techniques. By using some simple sources and techniques, you can monitor this major economic and commercial event and watch it unfolding in nearly real-time. This can be invaluable to those requiring data to estimate the economic, geopolitical and commercial impact of such events.


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