A Strategic Vantage Point

Taking the Pulse of the World’s Ports

The world’s ports have tons of stories to tell.

They’re essential to healthy economies, facilitating the flow of goods, resources, and people around the globe. Whether used for trade or defense, we can learn a lot about industries and nation states by observing regular port activity over time. When sanctions are imposed, or shortages reported, we usually can see it first by looking at a port. From a defense standpoint, naval powers choose strategically located ports to build and deploy effective navies.

In monitoring the world’s ports every day, we’d have a daily pulse of world affairs. With a large, steady stream of data, analysts can observe ports day-to-day, establish baselines of activity, and perhaps make data-based predictions about what’s to come. However, there are very few perches from which even the most savvy analysts can monitor all of the world’s ports simultaneously. For this, we need satellites.

The Tech

Planet’s constellation of small satellites soon will image the entire Earth’s landmass daily. With each new flock of satellites we’ve launched, we’ve broadened our imaging capacity in square kilometers, and reduced the amount of time between “revisits” at any given place on the globe.

Take a look at how our data volumes have changed over time:

Weekly Coverage to Date

Planet’s data collection volume increases with each new flock launched. Earth’s land mass measures about 150 Million square kilometers.

Start Exploring

Our dataset is global in scale, but a ton of localized stories lie locked within it. We monitored day-to-day activity in six strategically located ports across the globe over a two-month period. Take a look for yourself at the varying activity in each port over time—explore each area of interest, identify changes, draw conclusions, and maybe even predict what might happen next.

Open Water Monitoring

Hughes Reef, South China Sea

-95°5'19", 186°36'2"

Submarine Monitoring

Novorossiysk, Russia

-99°56'49", 196°2'38"

Mixed-Use Vessel Tracking

Bandar Abbas, Iran

-80°47'47", 199°11'12"

Patterns of Life

Wonsan, DPRK

-92°13'48", 202°19'42"

Aircraft Carrier Construction

Dalian, China

-95°5'19", 177°6'49"

Naval Base Activity

Yokosuka, Japan

-92°13'48", 189°45'6"

Best viewed on larger screens


Patterns of Life

Orbiting satellites Track commercial vessel activity in the port town of Wonsan, North Korea. Count personal watercraft, break-bulk, gas carriers and commercial fishing ships as they leave the popular port.

April 11, 2017

Ships: 4

Vessels of Interest Observed over Two Months

Large Class Vessels

The First Step

Changes in the world’s ports are happening simultaneously around the globe every day. It’s near-impossible to monitor the world’s ports with mere visual inspection at this scale. Now many imagery specialists are turning automated analysis methods.

We here at Planet believe that automated change detection detection is the first step towards understanding global change; and we’re working hard to make that a reality. We’ve started with the release of a simple, Pixel difference lab, that recognizes visual changes between two images. For more complex change detection, a ton of data (and a ton of labelling elbow grease) is required. We’ve labeled a small amount of maritime data to build a ship counter of our own; and turned to Kaggle community to correctly label imagery of the Amazon Basin. Some of our customers, like Exogenesis, are building change detection platforms of their own on top of our data.

The dataset is here, and we’re just beginning to build useful analytic tools on top of it. Answer your next question with help from satellite imagery and a well-trained algorithm.