Safe Seas: can an Integrated Maritime Surveillance be achieved by the EU?

Safe Seas: can an Integrated Maritime Surveillance be achieved by the EU?

Safe Seas: can an Integrated Maritime Surveillance be achieved by the EU?

Safe Seas: can an Integrated Maritime Surveillance be achieved by the EU?


Speech by Lowri Evans at the European Economic and Social Committee Conference, Brussels, 24 March 2015

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,


The interest that the European Economic and Social Committee is giving to the important topic of Integrated Maritime Surveillance is very welcome. May I say a particular thank you to Dr Bredina and to Mr Polyzogopoulos for their excellent work.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said that Europe should focus on the big issues. Making the seas and oceans safer, more secure, and cleaner is for sure a big and strategic issue.

As you know 90% of the EU's trade is carried by sea. We all have a pretty good understanding of the importance of maritime transport for the EU. We may be less immediately aware of our reliance now and in the future on submarine pipelines and telecom cables, on oil and gas platforms and on renewable energy sources like wind and wave energy farms.

We need to deal in a more effective, joined-up way with legal activities at sea. And we need effective joint responses to the illegal activities as well – including trafficking, illegal fishing, piracy and terrorism. The challenges of dealing with irregular migration in the Mediterranean at the moment shows that no one service and no one country can manage alone.

More efficient cooperation between maritime surveillance authorities is the main political objective of the EU Maritime Security Strategy that was approved last year by the Council of the European Union. The Strategy brings together all maritime security actors.

The Action Plan that was adopted last December in the Council under Italian Presidency will translate the Strategy into practice. 134 actions are identified – reflecting the complexity, the ambition, and the political will to change.

The European Parliament has also carried out significant work on the issues, and its views are largely reflected in the Action Plan.

The EU and its Member States are expected to report on the first implementation efforts during 2015.

The action plan identifies five main workstrands for further collaboration, namely in the areas of
1) external action;
2) maritime awareness, surveillance and information sharing;
3) capability development and capacity building;
4) risk management, protection of critical maritime infrastructure and crisis response, and
5)maritime security research and innovation, education and training.

The strategy is voluntary by nature and does therefore not interfere or duplicate obligations already established under EU law. It serves as a complement to the EU legislative acquis in the maritime domain, and focuses on areas – even though not subject to binding legislation - where Member States nevertheless have manifested an interest to co-operate more closely with each other.

The overall aim of the strategy is to be able to enhance operational efficiency and to become more cost efficient at the same time. The strategy is expected to lead to closer cross sectorial collaboration both at national and EU level.

A key feature of the strategy is this cross-sectorial approach, meaning that different maritime surveillance functions should be working much closer together and share resources (resources like vessels, radars, satellite services for example) with each other more than now.

Another key feature of the strategy is the focus on civil-military co-operation. The basic idea is that civilian and military authorities should be working closer with each other to share information and resources.

Why do we need to integrate maritime surveillance?

Various relevant sectors have been building maritime surveillance systems mainly at national but also at EU level. We are essentially talking about the separate control activities in 7 historically different areas - transport, fisheries, environment, border control, law enforcement, customs, and the defence authorities.

About 400 relevant authorities in the EU need to be able to communicate with each other in the most cost efficient manner.

Based on data from the Member States in 2012, only about 30% of the information that should be shared is actually shared. Much of the progress so far has been achieved in the transport area. So we are not starting from zero. There is a lot to build on, including what EMSA and Frontex for example are doing very well.

The objective now is to ensure that maritime surveillance information collected by one authority and considered necessary for the operational activities of others can be shared and be subject to multiuse, rather than collected and produced several times, or collected and kept for a single purpose.

It should not matter if this information is to be found in a transport system, in a military system, in a national system of a given sea basin, or in an EU system.

According to estimates from Member States, a Maritime Common Information Sharing environment is expected to bring over 4 billion Euro benefit over ten years compared with relatively low investment cost of about 100 million Euro over the same period.

So can Integrated Maritime Surveillance be achieved?

Yes it can if the political will is there.

What it mainly takes to get there is a shift in mentality. We must move away from thinking in traditional ‘silos’ and take steps towards EU wide cross-sectoral cooperation. This change of mentality is progressively taking place.

There has been fruitful cooperation by all relevant sectors mainly at national level but also at EU level. In particular four large scale Member States’ driven projects have shown that this is possible: you may have heard of ‘BlueMassMed’, ‘MARSUNO’, the ‘Cooperation Project’ and now ‘EUCISE2020’. Each of these projects has involved about ten Member States, including about fifty authorities from all seven relevant sectors. The fourth project, ‘EUCISE2020’, started end 2014 and is a proof of concept project meant to design, develop and test Maritime CISE on a large scale by mid-2017.


In conclusion, (more) Integrated Maritime Surveillance can be achieved in the EU and we have started on the path towards achieving it. There’s an awful lot of work to do.

Thank you very much.