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Ship detection from remote sensing imagery is very important, with a wide array of applications in areas such as fishery management, vessel traffic services, and naval warfare. This paper focuses on the issue of ship detection from spaceborne optical images (SDSOI). Although advantages of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) result in that most of current ship detection approaches are based on SAR images, disadvantages of SAR still exist, such as the limited number of SAR sensors, the relatively long revisit cycle, and the relatively lower resolution. With the increasing number of and the resulting improvement in continuous coverage of the optical sensors, SDSOI can partly overcome the shortcomings of SAR-based approaches and should be investigated to help satisfy the requirements of real-time ship monitoring. In SDSOI, several factors such as clouds, ocean waves, and small islands affect the performance of ship detection. This paper proposes a novel hierarchical complete and operational SDSOI approach based on shape and texture features, which is considered a sequential coarse-to-fine elimination process of false alarms. First, simple shape analysis is adopted to eliminate evident false candidates generated by image segmentation with global and local information and to extract ship candidates with missing alarms as low as possible. Second, a novel semisupervised hierarchical classification approach based on various features is presented to distinguish between ships and nonships to remove most false alarms. Besides a complete and operational SDSOI approach, the other contributions of our approach include the following three aspects: 1) it classifies ship candidates by using their class probability distributions rather than the direct extracted features; 2) the relevant classes are automatically built by the samples' appearances and their feature attribute in a semisupervised mode; and 3) besides commonly used shape and texture features, a new texture operator, i.e., loca- - l multiple patterns, is introduced to enhance the representation ability of the feature set in feature extraction. Experimental results of SDSOI on a large image set captured by optical sensors from multiple satellites show that our approach is effective in distinguishing between ships and nonships, and obtains a satisfactory ship detection performance.