EU Science Hub

JRC's software to help identify sea polluters

Aug 04 2011

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will be supplied with JRC's software package SUMO to improve its oil pollution detection system. This new capability can help Member States authorities to improve their response and prevention activities to pollution from ships.

Entirely developed by the JRC's Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen (IPSC), SUMO (“Search for Unidentified Marine Objects”) is a tool for the automatic detection of vessels based on satellite images.

Satellite images are currently in use at EMSA for the operational detection of illegal oil discharges from ships through a monitoring service known as CleanSeaNet (CSN). Oil spills can be detected on satellite images. Advanced automatic tools for the extraction of oil spills from satellite images have been developed by the JRC and are already in use in CSN. Nevertheless, identifying the polluting vessel is still a challenge. SUMO addresses that issue by detecting ships in the satellite images, and automatically correlating them with the positions resulting from EMSA's vessel traffic monitoring system (SafeSeaNet). This additional piece of information is crucial for national authorities to identify polluting ships and take actions.

SUMO is also the software behind the Vessel Detection System (VDS), developed by the JRC in support of EU fisheries legislation. VDS is a control tool that uses satellite images to find ships, and cross-checks their positions with those reported by the fishing vessels. It thereby signals to authorities the possible presence of illegally operating fishing ships.