Beginning of October, the organization TankerTrackers.com received quite some media coverage for the report they shared regarding their monitoring of Iran's oil exports despite the sanctions that will become effective in November (read here for instance the article from Forbes on the topic). I personally discovered TankerTrackers.com in a complete different context. Samir Madani, co-founder, was the curator for one week of a Twitter account I was following, and he raised my curiosity when explaining the purpose and implications of his work: looking at oil production sites and tracking tankers throughout the oceans using geospatial analytics to understand the actual quantities and movements of oil barrels in the world.
Not bad, hey? And rather different that what we generally share here.
With maritime traffic being one of the biggest polluting industry, it is great pleasure and pride that we collected Samir's answers for OUTSIDE THE BOX.
To start this interview, can you please give us a few info about yourself: your name, age, where you live, what you do for a living, your hobbies, your strengths and weaknesses…anything that defines you as a person!
Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com
Married, with 4 small children. Live in Stockholm, Sweden.
Hobby turned into full-time profession of tracking oil flows out at sea and storage on land.
Strengths: Doer, mobilizer, unafraid venturer.
Tell us a little more about Tanker Trackers: what is the organization’s purpose and who is working there?
The role of TankerTrackers.com is to empower the 99% of the population of enthusiasts, researchers and traders who do not have access to the multi-digit premium services which provide the latest updates in oil flows and storage forecasts/readings. Our premium service is very affordable and offers a lot more visual insight and education that just a number as we use the very latest geospatial technology to help us achieve our bird’s eye view; or as well call it – our “oil painting”.
Marine transportation is considered one of the most polluting one, and tracking the tankers and their possible misconducts is critical. What do you do when something (observed spillage for instance) happens?
We do our best to inform the local authorities by first writing to the country’s oil ministry. We also inform the vessel’s owner. Visual evidence is available as we have daily satellite imagery of every corner of the planet thanks to our collaboration with Planet Labs.
Are local/international authorities backing your work up? What do they do when you report an incident and what is your true power of action and change?
We feel that if we don’t get a response from the authorities, that the local population will take notice and pressure the authorities instead via the media outlets that pick up on our discoveries.
How did you come to work there, what made you pick this organization? What do you like in working there?
I co-founded it with my fellow tracker Lisa Ward, and then Breki Tomasson hopped aboard as well as our Chief Data Scientist and Software Developer.
I love the struggle of being a grassroots startup, and we have great support from our audience. Aiming to grow the customer base so we can expand our operation organically without external investors.
The TankerTrackers team, from left to right: Breki Tomasson, Lisa Ward and Samir Madani. Pic/TankerTrackers
Can you describe your “standard” working day there?
Hectic, as we have plenty of ground to cover, especially now that Iran is cloaking half of its exports by switching off their AIS transponders (mandatory geo-location devices for tankers) ahead of the US sanctions on November 4th, so it’s a constant mouse-chase; but an educational one at that! Our methods have improved tremendously, and our export numbers were the highest thanks to our techniques.
I got to know you via Twitter, as you were curating the account of @Sweden*. How was this online experience?
I loved it. The world got to see what a foreign-born Swede can achieve in this land of opportunity. Married a Swedish woman, raising 4 kids, and running a startup. I got to interact with a different audience and also discuss topics outside of my work; such as family life and about things I really appreciate about Sweden, such as running (high quality) tap-water.
I remember some people disliking your curating role mainly because of your non-Swedish name…The account is often the target of racist hating comments. “Haters gonna hate” as they said, did you have the opportunity to reflect about the bad comments you got?
With nearly 23K followers on my private account, I’ve grown a thick skin. I didn’t block, but I sure did mute a few people.
*each week a different person was picked to manage the Twitter account of @Sweden and describe his/her life in or outside the country.
After 7 successful years and 356 twitterers the account ended its adventure in October to start new projects.
Follow Samir and TankerTrackers on Twitter and Instagram: