Joint Research Centre - European Commission

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Map showing the position of ships in the gulf of Aden

Data from a variety of sources is integrated to indicate the position of ships in real-time.© EU, 2012

JRC supports the fight against piracy off African coasts


A JRC developed prototype software identifying ship positions in real-time will be tested by Kenya in an effort by the EU to improve countries’ capacity building for countering piracy in the region. Financed by the European Commission’s Directorate General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, the software system is a result of a two-year study carried out by JRC researchers. This tool, known as Piracy, Maritime Awareness and Risks (PMAR) system, was presented on 21 November 2012 at an EU workshop held in Mombasa, Kenya.

The PMAR system will be hosted by the Kenyan Maritime Authority for a trial. The project that led to its development, studied technologies intended to build up maritime awareness and was tailored for use by authorities in regions affected by piracy. This state-of-the-art software integrates data from vessel reporting and earth observation systems into one single maritime picture, taking into account a wide array of available data sources. The maritime picture indicates the estimated current ship positions in real-time, with an update every 15 minutes. Historic piracy risk occurrence and ship traffic density maps are also produced.

PMAR has a regional approach in providing a wide (Western Indian Ocean) maritime situational picture. This is one of the necessary building blocks in fighting piracy: it complements the coastal picture that can be observed by individual countries. Besides for counter-piracy, the increased maritime awareness supports maritime governance in the broader sense; as such, it can also be used for other purposes like combating illegal fisheries or illegal immigration. With a strong focus on regional maritime capacity building, the PMAR conclusions will enable national authorities and their donors to decide on further implementation of concrete measures for maritime awareness in the area.

The EU Workshop taking place on 20-22 November in Mombasa, was attended by decision makers in maritime administrations and coast guards from Comoros, Djibouti, India, Kenya, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Réunion, Seychelles, and Yemen, as well as representatives of regional organisations, the EU, the U.S. and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).