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Last Update: 2007-10-26   Source: Research Headlines
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Space technology for maritime management

The European Union currently has the world’s largest maritime territory and now, for the first time in its history, the European Commission has adopted an Integrated Maritime Policy. This decision means that the EU will have a strategic approach to decision-making in Maritime Affairs. Monitoring will be conducted through the assistance of the European Space Agency.

Integrated maritime surveillance © ESA
Integrated maritime surveillance
The world's waterways have always been a source of contention, and are always used as an example when discussing the 'problem of the commons'. A recently unveiled maritime policy puts an end to these contentions and lays the groundwork for the sustainable management of its resources.

According to the European Commission, the new policy will build on Europe's strengths in marine research, technology and innovation and will be anchored in the European Union's overarching commitment to ensuring that economic development does not come at the price of environmental sustainability.

The European Space Agency's ERS satellites have been the main vehicles for testing and demonstrating the feasibility of using satellite Earth Observation (EO) data in different maritime policy areas. In fact, the ESA has been actively involved in maritime sector for over the last 25 years. The ERS missions supported developments in oil slick detection, sea ice monitoring, wind and wave forecasting, Regional Ocean current forecasting, coastal bathymetry mapping and vessel detection.

Intentional and accidental discharges threaten fragile coastal ecosystems, impact on tourism and generate significant clean-up costs. The European policy goal, as stated in the Marine Thematic Strategy of the 6th Environment Action Plan, is a complete elimination of discharges into the marine environment by 2020. Effective surveillance such as CleanSeaNet is essential if this objective is to be met. However, oil spill detection is not the only area where satellite based SAR surveillance is being applied.

ESA welcomes the Integrated Maritime Policy and intends to work with the different actors involved in areas where it sees current or potential future demand for space-based capabilities in the maritime sector.


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