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b. CLS: Benefiting from Space for Maritime security

Ensuring the continuity of surveillance from open seas to coastal areas.



Since 11/09, threats characteristics evolved: high seas can be viewed as the scene for illegal activities potentially dangerous for homeland security: drug traffic, illegal immigration, weapons traffic, or bases for terrorist attacks. From the policy point of view, Open Ocean is a vast territory relatively lawless and less monitored. Concerned of such weaknesses, international bodies, Europe and Member States started thinking about setting up capacities and policies to support an improved and global security and safety at sea, enhancing surveillance missions for prevention and preparedness against potential threats, enhancing also response at sea, while embracing the environmental dimension of security at sea also.

Going through threats understanding, missions setting up, Space provides clearly core capacities that can support the improvement of maritime security contributing globally to all classical phases of security issues: prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

R&D, Pilot projects in EU already demonstrated and are currently going on to demonstrate the benefit of space coupled and integrated with other “short range” capacities to contribute to maritime security both in the field of Earth Observation, Telecommunications and data collection or localization. Some Member States passed the step already to use it operationally to support i.e. control of illegal fishing or maritime traffic surveillance but there are few.

Big challenges are de facto remaining in front of Research, Industry, Services operators but also Stakeholders in order for Space to be defined as one of the major “instrument” for an improved global maritime security capacity serving lives and goods protection all over the ocean:

  • Development of high performances capacities
  • Integration of space data and other sources of data into a combination of capacities & systems supporting operational user infrastructures and operational procedures
  • Guaranty of continuity of service from space capacities and data availability/integrity
  • Sensibilisation of stakeholders in supporting the setting up of space capacities for maritime security and use at international, regional up to national and local levels.

The purpose of this presentation will be to illustrate operational key requirements addressed by maritime security, answering both to public and private concerns that could be served by space, illustrate the discussion with leading edge solutions currently developed in Europe and elaborate on technological challenges that the space industry should face to answer to the maritime sector of activity.


The European economy depends from maritime transport: 90% of the oil & gas of the European consumption reaches Europe by sea. 70% of the European trades go by sea1.

The maritime domain is a key issue for economy: place for international maritime transport, but also for present & future energy supply capacities (offshore, wind farms), for marine resources exploitation2.

Quarter 1, 2006 63 piracy attacks registered at the International Maritime Bureau, in Asia and West Africa.
Nov 2005 Seabourn Spirit, cruiser attacked in Somalia – 312 people dead
Feb 2004 the MV Super ferry attacked near Manila
Feb 2003 Planned attacks interrupted in the Hormuz detroit
End 2002 TECTO Limburg Tanker attacked close to Yemen
June 2002 planned maritime attack in Gibraltar straits stopped
Oct 2000vUSS Cole destroyer attacked by Al Qaeda close to Yemen

Given its 90 000 km long shores and the level of the economic and social activities attached to it, Europe proves particularly vulnerable when it comes to deal with this new hardly visible highly unpredictable threats.

From a security point of view, main requirements from Member States and Europe are simple:

  • To protect their economic interests whatever their location and route thus all over the globe, thus at long range
  • To prevent from potential threats that could reach European coasts by detecting suspect activities and react before the incident could occur
  • To ensure that coastal areas remain environmentally friendly and safe from threats.

Such requirements for maritime security are mainly driven by institutional actors from September, 11and their requirements are pre-eminent to define homeland security initiatives in Europe, calling for known applications such as Illegal immigration control, blue border control, fight against massive attacks, illegal fishing…
From a policy point of view, international conventions have been defined (UNCLOS, SOLAS, International Ship and Port Security code) to regulate maritime activities but mainly for safety purposes. Duties have been put mainly on flag states but it does not prevent EU from flags of convenience being reluctant to apply security measures and largely collaborate.

Remaining weak in this field, some Member States have already signed multi lateral agreements to support enhanced maritime surveillance and joint operations (Bonn agreement, EQUASIS, SUA convention, …) and designed some regional or sectoral tools (SafeSeaNet, CinCarm for customs, SafetyAtSea, …). EC has already started to implement EU agencies with maritime responsibilities (European Maritime Safety Agency, FRONTEX blue borders, TAXUD, Community Fisheries Control Agency…) and is keen to study the interest of cooperating with the defence in a dual mode but for civil security purposes.

At the international level, in IMO (International Maritime Organization), regulation to implement LRIT (Long Range Identification and Tracking) of vessels is under discussion by Member States in order to monitor and control all traffic within 200 up 2000 miles from coasts either by port states, coastal states or flag states.

In Europe, the Maritime Policy Task force has stated in a draft agenda that EU cooperation shall be made more systematic for different strategic purposes:

  • To increase European prevention and responses capacities by integrating stand alone capacities in a meta capacity more powerful
  • To converge towards an integrated management of the maritime logistic chain filled by each EU actor – private, public – but also with main EU neighbours from which EU depends economically or in terms of borders
  • To strengthen the position of Europe in front of other countries or powers in international discussion and best preserve European interests
  • To optimize the cost of development and deployment of capacities that could be shared for several purposes ( maritime safety, environmental maritime security, maritime security such anti terrorism fight or fight against IUU fishing vessels, fight against piracy, environmental security and pollution management, …)
  • To participate to the development of an integrated management of oceans in a holistic way being multi sectoral and multidisciplinary.

Maritime security is also a concern less expressed but nevertheless important in mind of private companies whose business is significantly dependent from the maritime domain such as: fishing industry, energy sector, maritime freight or leisure. Their requirements can be assimilated to those institutional but operated at a modest level and privately to protect exploitation fields (fishing, energy), production, transportation or distribution links in the chain (international transport).

Operational requirements

Requirements from the public sector are for improved capacities for surveillance (detection at longer distance, more in real time, of smaller objects, on board vessels), solutions of fast and coordinated responses involving several naval actors and institutions integrated or distributed facilities that can be networked or aggregated on demand. Main missions are border control, domestic control, EEZ management, Search and Rescue, fight against organized crime and terrorism.

Requirements for the private sector are more oriented on industrial solutions cost effective, easy to deploy within their own production or business facilities and secured internally (infrastructures surveillance, logistic chain monitoring and control, assets tracking including not only vessels but also containers or freight along multimodal chains, vessels tracking and protection).
Whatever the public or private interests, If it can be more easily managed from the shore and within territorial areas under jurisdiction, mainly in coastal areas, such missions can become more difficult to be operated when European interests are located or routing far from European places; main difficulties being:

  • Difficulty in monitoring globally vessel traffic whatever the location and having up to date information, timeliness of the information acquired at far
  • Difficulty in planning operations far from home, based only on European capacities, and in areas under different policies and organizations
  • Problem of responsibility for joint operations in international waters when usually the flag state is responsible elsewhere.
  • Cost of operations too heavy to be sized for a full coverage and fast response and be taken in charge by single countries due to the types, numbers and costs of technologies to be set up (Radars, AIS stations, Space capacities, Information systems and networks, naval forces, air forces, …)

Technological state of the art

Many R&D projects are running at EU level. In short the main characteristics of these projects are:

  • From a mission standpoint, these projects address first protection of coastal and port areas for blue and green border control
  • They are focused on maritime surveillance and control of European waters for European bodies.
  • They address current EC polices EC2002/59 ERIKA II, ERIKA III.
  • They are mainly targeted to technologies used at short range from coast and ready to be integrated at short to medium term.
  • They are most of all institutions oriented.

An exception shall be done for the MARNIS integrated project led by DG TRANSPORT. This project presented as an “orgware” organization and functional project has for ambition to draw the S&T picture in terms of maritime information management for Member States addressing both open seas/coastal areas/ and information on board vessels for safety purposes but also security.

Institutions are also running initiatives and projects at national level and regional: SafetyAtSea (North), Spationav/trafic2000 (France), Med-MEH (I, MT, Tunisia, Libya), SE-VTMIS (I), CINCARM (customs). Their objectives are to evaluate multilateral joint operations either sectorial or regional and increase their capacities (Radars, AIS, …). Such projects are precursor at European level of more enlarged shared capacities for a global maritime security.

Through SOBCAH, MARNIS but also port control, container control related projects (i.e. addressing CSI implementation), crisis management projects, coastal and port areas are first priorities in the design, implementation and integration of technologies serving security. When implementing such solutions, we are pushing further the limits for controlling and anticipating on threats, towards open sea.

Benefits from space – available and valuable now

Space has demonstrated for years to be adequate in remote areas difficult to access, with a specific capacity to address global and large areas of missions (I.e. SARSAT; GPS, INMARSAT, …).

Space, onboard vessels, is present for positioning, communications both for safety, personal or professional purposes, low cost data collection or positioning for protection against piracy … (ISPS code implementation).

If space is of direct use for navigation and communications, it has to be considered also a significant component in the information chain as a raw data basis for information correlation, imagery intelligence and modelling (meteorology, ocean, mission/route planning).

As such for example, Space is valuable to monitor and control the marine environment either for environmental purposes but also for strategic surveillance or tactical aid in case of operations. Earth observation, Space oceanography are main capacities used for vessels detection, but also pollution, ocean state or ocean health measurements.
Such capacities are partly already deployed and efficient within Fishing Monitoring centres, MRCC services, Radar surveillance systems for illegal fishing controls, met-ocean institutes. Their deployment and use mainly driven by safety at sea and military purposes, at a first basis, is today both private and public and has become a necessity due to international law enforcement.
Navigation: GPS is onboard all vessels. Beyond providing European sovereign solutions with Galileo, the next important steps will be to ensure precise and certified positioning to guaranty the protection of vessels all over the globe (for regulation and Search & rescue) but also to prevent institutions from false positioning given by illegal or IUU vessels.
Data collection systems, mainly used for safety at sea, environmental measurements and ISPS code implementation, will have to be maintained to propose low cost and efficient solutions for small amount of data collection with an enlarged coverage.
Earth Observation, much more mature for terrestrial applications, associated with space oceanography should develop to have en “eye” on the ocean. It shall support navies, maritime authorities or intelligence services to detect and control suspect activities at sea and contribute significantly to prevention and preparedness. Improvements paths should be accuracy, real time observation, extended coverage and also promotion for an enlarged use by the public and private sector.

Beyond intrinsic advantages, Space is a solution:

  • Addressing large coverage surveillance and long range
  • With capacity for hotspot monitoring
  • Fully discrete and non intrusive, legally valid over foreign territories
  • Working all weather, all time
  • Nevertheless, it has been and will remain complementary and useful combined with other data into a maritime information capability.

Forthcoming challenges

Technological and operational challenges to solve reside now in providing solutions and operational scenarios to guarantee that threats cannot be prepared or executed where security constraints are relaxed and thus the vulnerability increased, at long range.

By combining space and non space missions, next Maritime security capacities shall be designed to ensure that:
activities along international routes are continuously tracked from port to port to support vessels protections (and specially HAZMAT3 vessels),
surveillance will be able to be operated anywhere, at any time to detect suspect activities (even small) potentially dangerous along routes, and
The maritime environment can be mastered in terms of objects presence, met ocean behaviour to support detection and operations.
The forthcoming challenges for space are threefold:

  • increase performances in terms of technology to meet operational requirements and scenarios : ensure the continuity of information all time, become more real time and reactive in case of unplanned event and emergency, ensure unfalsification and security of the information
  • proceed with standardization to be integrated with non space technologies to demonstrate of its usefulness and necessity become accessible in terms of pricing so that an enlarged institutional market and private market can adopt it and ensure a global security by sharing surveillance and security responsibilities and aggregating it into a global security framework.

If Space can technologically answer in the future to operational concerns (detection of small wood boats, moving targets, eaves dropping, real time vessel detections in dense areas), Space based capacities will not expand without a strong support from international regulations pushing for it the promotion of added value maritime services integrating all sort of technologies into powerful integrated systems for institutions and states but also light, flexible and cost effective applications for all actors concerned by security: developing countries, private sector, and industry.


The authors specially thanks the European partners of the MAEVA maritime security consortium for their contribution, but also meteorological, oceanographic and maritime authorities in refining the concept for a global maritime security and the contribution of space into this global picture. FP6, PASR projects coordinators are also granted for their availability and communication on their respective projects to progress commonly and complementarily in the development of this vision.


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1 DG TRANSPORT white paper, 2001, La politique Européenne des transports à l’horizon 2010 : l’heure des choix

2 DG FISH Common Fisheries Policy, 2001

3 HAZMAT – Hazardous Materials – sensitive cargaisons