Better information sharing to fight threats at sea
EU-funded researchers are creating an information-sharing system for maritime surveillance authorities that will improve coordination on threats such as international terrorism and cross-border pollution at sea, contributing to a safer, cleaner Europe.
From the North Sea to the Adriatic, the seas surrounding Europe host a wide range of activities, including fishing, recreation, military, conservation and shipping. Moreover, 40 % of Europes economic activity is concentrated within 50 km of the coast, while 80 % of trade with non-EU countries and 40 % of intra-EU trade is carried out by sea.
Given the high levels of maritime activity in Europe, collaboration and information sharing between EU countries can improve decision-making and responses to threats such as cross-border terrorism, environmental crimes, people trafficking and illegal fishing.
To address these challenges, the EU-funded EU CISE 2020 project is working towards creating a network for countries to share maritime-related information called a Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE). The move has been identified as crucial to both the EUs Integrated Maritime Policy strategy and the European Maritime Security Strategy.
Maritime CISE increases the efficiency, quality, responsiveness and coordination of surveillance operations in the EU maritime sector, says project coordinator Carolina Matarazzi, senior advisor at the Italian Space Agency. It will ensure that information collected by one maritime authority can be shared with another authority where necessary. Once up and running, the operational network will improve overall safety and security throughout Europe.
One network for all maritime players
Currently, many EU countries, authorities and private businesses gather data about the maritime environment, but none has comprehensive oversight of maritime activities. According to Matarazzi, military and civilian players cannot provide enough effective, efficient and timely information about the maritime environment by themselves.
With a maritime CISE system, people working in maritime surveillance would have fast access to all the relevant information via one network, which connects the networks of existing national and sectoral stakeholders.
EU CISE 2020 project researchers have already created a pre-operational information exchange network. Currently, it connects 11 national nodes in EU countries participating in the project and has a dissemination hub designed to test and demonstrate the system. Each node connects one or more national or sectoral surveillance systems to the network that will supply and receive information according to a data access policy defined by the project.
The system is voluntary and access rights to the information are based on a responsibility to share basis. This means that EU countries should forewarn other countries about potential threats by communicating relevant information. For example, military authorities such as the navy could share information with non-military maritime stakeholders. The network also incorporates data from the European Earth Observation programme gathered by the EUs Copernicus satellites, in particular data from the Italian COSMO-SkyMed satellite constellation.
Consistent approach to policy
In addition to sharing information on threats and emergency situations, the project hopes that better collaboration will help create a more coherent approach to maritime policy areas, including transport, environmental protection, fisheries, border control, customs, law enforcement and defence.
Maritime authorities from 15 EU and European Economic Area countries are now working with the European Commission and the European Maritime Safety Agency to plan the transition phase between the project and a fully operational CISE system by 2020. The transition will last approximately two years and is expected to be financed by the European Commission.