Towards integrated maritime surveillance
The European Commission has set out guiding principles for the establishment of integrated maritime surveillance. These guiding principles will help Member States to establish a common information sharing environment for the maritime domain between the different user communities such as the authorities responsible for maritime safety and security, fisheries control, marine pollution, the marine environment, customs, border control, law enforcement and defence.
Communication from the Commission of 15 October 2009 – Towards the integration of maritime surveillance: A common information sharing environment for the EU maritime domain [COM(2009) 538 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In the European Union, most data relating to maritime affairs is processed by sectoral authorities. These authorities are responsible for the surveillance and monitoring of activities at sea in the sector under their responsibility, without necessarily informing their counterparts in other sectors. This is a drawback, since the sharing of this data makes it possible to increase the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of maritime surveillance activities.
Data sharing and interoperability between maritime surveillance systems pose certain technical and legal problems, however, as well as problems from a security perspective. In this Communication, the Commission identifies these problems and puts forward solutions.
Obstacles to the integration of maritime surveillance
The main obstacles to the creation of a common information sharing environment are as follows:
- diverse user and operator communities: most information is collected at several levels (international, EU and national) by numerous sectoral systems. In some cases the involved authorities are unaware that other authorities or systems are collecting similar information. In other cases they do not have information sharing standards or agreements;
- diverse legal frameworks: maritime surveillance systems have been developed on the basis of sector-specific, international and EU legislation. These systems are therefore difficult to merge;
- cross border threats: threats faced by Member States often require an improved trans-national and sometimes even trans-sectoral approach, in particular with regard to the high seas;
- specific legal provisions: international and EU legislation which frames maritime surveillance activities on the high seas and governs the processing of personal, confidential and classified data lacks cohesion.
Solutions for the integration of maritime surveillance
The creation of a common information sharing environment is based on compliance with the following Guiding Principles:
- optimising the exchange of information between the different user communities. The European Union should adopt rules and standards at Community level to interlink the different user communities. These communities should be able to share at national level information from international, Community, regional, military and internal systems. The common information sharing environment should be secure, and flexible enough to adapt to the needs of new users;
- building a non-hierarchical technical framework of maritime monitoring and surveillance systems. The technical framework should facilitate the collection, dissemination, analysis and management of data. It should integrate security concerns and comply with data protection regulations, international rules and functional requirements;
- exchanging information between civilian and military authorities. The authorities responsible for maritime surveillance should be able to share information. Common standards and procedures for access to and use of the information will be adopted to allow for a two-directional information exchange;
- removing obstacles to the exchange of information imposed by specific legal provisions. Certain provisions of EU and national legislation may prevent the exchange of information relating to maritime monitoring and surveillance. These provisions should be identified and adapted while providing for the necessary guarantees relating to confidentiality and data security and the protection of personal data.
These four Guiding Principles will serve to trigger a reflection process at EU and Member State level which will need to encompass all user communities. They may be revised in light of the outcome of three projects aimed at evaluating the ability of users from different Member States and user communities to exchange information.
This Communication follows on from a previous Communication - An Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union, in which the European Commission undertook to ‘take steps towards a more interoperable surveillance system to bring together existing monitoring and tracking systems used for maritime safety and security, protection of the marine environment, fisheries control, control of external borders and other law enforcement activities’.