Black Sea : Russia jams GPS (again)!

Black Sea : Russia jams GPS (again)!
  • PublishedOctober 6, 2023

In Romania, many local sources claim that Russia is jamming vessel’s GPS in the country’s territorial waters. Those jamming enterprises significantly increase the risks of collisions in the Black Sea.

If the Black Sea often makes news headlines, it is surely because it is punctuated by geopolitical tensions within the region. In particular, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In this context, the consequences of the Russian activities impact neighboring countries. In Romania, where GPS are jammed by Russians, the entire maritime safety system is under threat.

During the EuroAtlantic Resilience Forum, on September 28 and 29th, the Romanian Army’s Chief of Staff, General Daniel Petrescu, spoke about the dangers implied by those enterprises : “Russia’s jamming activities are constant, affecting GPS communications and, thus, leading to risks of collisions between commercial vessels transiting Romania’s territorial waters or for those entering areas subjected to navigation restrictions mentioned by Russia, while making them vulnerable to conflict escalation measures.” According to comments reported by stiripesurse.ro, the Chief of Staff affirms that the risk may also affect certain drones or missiles which, while jammed, do not work correctly.

Russia isn’t at its first attempt !

Those frequency jamming do not only impact Romanians. 10% of civilians in the waters of Constanta’s harbor, along the Bulgarian coastline and up to Turkey’s territorial waters are allegedly receiving completely false data, according to Swiss media 24 Heures.

Ukrainian grain ships are also being targeted into the conflict.

If the dispute in Ukraine has greatly increased the intensity of these disturbances, Russia isn’t at its first jamming strike. “He who masters the entire electromagnetic spectrum will dominate the world,” said Soviet admiral Sergei Gorshkov during the Cold War. Since 2014, Russia has established itself as a pioneer in this field and tested its equipment in Crimea, according to the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, (C4ADS ), an American nonprofit organization aiming to defeat the illicit networks that threaten global peace and security.

In 2017, Moscow was parasitizing frequencies along the Syrian coast and in the eastern Mediterranean. In 2019, a French officer told Le Monde that sailing in the Black Sea could be compared to walking blindfolded.

Protests on social networks against Russian jamming growing:

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GPS systems and maritime safety :

Nowadays, most newer ships rely entirely on Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). It provides essential contents, such as position, speed, heading of the vessel, as well as highly precise time information. As a preventive measure, the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires the equipment of GNSS receivers on vessels subjected to the convention.

Jamming such systems involves the financial and security compromise of every harbors located within the radius of the jammer (several hundred of meters for the most efficient). Loss of GPS signal can lead to collisions between ships, spoofing of telecommunications systems and the inability to ensure the embarkation and disembarkation of freight. Moreover, a study conducted in 2017 by the British government estimates the loss of GPS reception over five days at 1 billion pounds. In addition, such jamming can also extend to drones or potential aircraft flying over the perimeter. Consequently, the use of GPS jammers near coasts sabotages the security and proper functioning of harbors. By acting in this way, Russia could be, once again, the source of major incidents in the Black Sea.

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