Over 40% of Europe’s population and economic activity is concentrated within 50 km of the coast. 80% of external EU trade and 40% of our internal trade is carried by sea. Needless to say, the security and safety of our maritime domain is paramount to the blue economy. But maritime security is a complex matter. In every country, several authorities are collecting, processing and acting upon data about activities at sea that can affect the national safety, economy, or environment. Coordination of these authorities is crucial.
And what about European coordination? Much of this information may benefit other Member States as well. Not just for their national security, but also for transport, customs, fisheries control, or environmental protection. Therefore, enhancing information exchange between maritime surveillance authorities is a strategic objective of the EU’s integrated maritime surveillance policy. But if national coordination is already a challenge, then pan-European coordination is like breaking down the tower of Babel.
That’s where EUCISE2020 comes in. A research project funded by the EU’s FP7 programme, it aimed to create an environment that enables information sharing across all relevant sectors and user communities. The project involved about 60 European maritime authorities from 15 States, all connected through 12 “nodes”. These nodes receive information from the coast guard, the navy, fisheries ministries, customs authorities… and allow national authorities in different Member States to communicate quickly. The Italian Space Agency ASI coordinated the effort and worked with 39 partners including maritime authorities, universities, research centres and oceanographic institutes.
The final conference also demonstrated that intelligent information sharing between maritime authorities makes surveillance less expensive and more effective. The Common Information Sharing Environment will make European seas safer, better controlled and more protected.
With EUCISE2020 proving that cross-border information exchange is feasible, the path to full implementation lies open. That is the next step of the Common Information Sharing Environment for the maritime domain. EMSA, the European Maritime Safety Agency, will be in the lead. Over the next three years, they will assist Member States to implement the CISE environment on a voluntary basis and examine how CISE fits with other EU information exchange systems.