In recent times, a phenomenon has spread in the seas: an increase in the percentage of missing persons at sea. The causes may be diverse, such as adverse weather conditions, boat malfunctions, or even a lack of experience in the maritime field, among other reasons.
In a report compiled by the Eurofish International Organisation, an international organization established to assist the development of fisheries and aquaculture in Europe, focusing on the post-harvest sector, thousands of accidental deaths at sea are reported worldwide every year.
The report included details that among fishermen alone, "in Guinea, around 500 deaths per 100,000 fishermen are estimated each year. In other countries on the West African coast, the mortality rate in small-scale fishing is said to vary in the range of 300 to 1,000 per 100,000 fishermen. Figures from South Africa show 585 deaths per 100,000 fishermen."
Worldwide, the number is even greater. However, due to poor reporting and inadequate information maintenance in records, those incidents affecting the public have not been properly dissected. This means there is a possibility of an even greater number of sea incidents.
Due to the high cost and vast expanse of the sea, communication with the missing has become extremely difficult, as maritime communication companies cannot extend their lines into the sea.
In Oman, if a boat goes beyond the borders of the Sultanate, neighbouring countries consider the communication lines as espionage. Moreover, the limited number of radars in Oman adds to the difficulty of finding the missing at sea.
In response to this, Suliman Mohammed Al Mujaini, head of research and development, said that they launched Flokiz, a company that hopes to help address this worldwide issue of missing people in the sea.
"Flokiz was created to help mitigate this phenomenon by creating an environmentally friendly algae box containing a tracking and distress device connected to three cells (satellites, a wireless network, and an innovative third cell) to achieve the highest coordinate accuracy. Each fisherman registers their maritime number on their respective box and places it on the boat," he explained.
Suliman and his team developed a user-friendly website suitable for all age groups. There are two ways to communicate with the missing. Firstly, when a person is lost at sea, one of their family members or relatives enters their maritime number on the website, and directly, it will show their exact location. The second method is through distress SOS signals.
By using the program, the missing person can send distress messages to the registered numbers in the program and the emergency number. With this product, we ensure the safety and return of sailors to their families. Additionally, it facilitates the search and quick access to the missing for coastal patrols. Instead of all the villagers going out to search, the search process becomes easy and fast.
The device can be used in hot deserts without the need for the internet, and it can also track vehicles in case of risks or accidents, allowing individuals to use the device to send distress signals.
The device features specifications including a battery life of up to three years, a size of 15 * 20 cm, a weight of 1100 g, and it is considered environmentally friendly, with a rating of 10% internet-enabled and 90% without internet.
Al Mujaini added, "This device works without the internet, and we already tried this new device. It proves to us that it works well with efficiency as it is guided by GPS."
Positive response and overwhelming support:
Al Mujaini said that they have received positive responses from different people they have pitched their ideas and shown the prototype.
"We are getting a great response, and with Oman having a very long coast and fishing still a big part of the business industry, this is quite an exciting product that they're looking forward to," Al Mujaini said.
Al Mujaini and his team are thankful for the support they are getting, not just from the government but also from the private sector, and most especially from one of Oman's big telecom providers that supported the development of the product.
"There is still lots of work that needs to be done. We've finished the prototype, and we've done numerous tests. Making it available publicly would still take a bit of time as there are numerous considerations that we have to make," he said.
They are also looking into production and distribution, which, he explained, are different parts but an essential section of the business.
Al Mujaini, however, said that as it stands now, they are very positive that they will reach their target and niche buyers, people who would relate and find the device helpful in their day-to-day operations.