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Brussels, 15 October 2009

Towards the integration of maritime surveillance in the European Union: questions and answers

What is maritime surveillance?

It is the effective understanding of all activities carried out at sea that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment of the European Union and its Member States.

Maritime Surveillance is carried out by Member States' authorities dealing with maritime transport, fisheries, border control, fight against illegal immigration, law enforcement at sea, defence, protection of the environment, etc. In some cases, Commission agencies such as the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (FRONTEX) and the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) assist Member States in carrying out these tasks.

What is 'Integrated maritime surveillance'?

Integrating maritime surveillance is the process leading to the development of a Common Information Sharing Environment which will enable Member States' authorities and Commission Agencies to access maritime surveillance and monitoring data generated by different sectors of activity, which is necessary for the performance of their duties. We need an integrated maritime surveillance on order to harvest cross-sectoral information, in a coherent manner, so as to increase the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the authorities involved in maritime surveillance in the EU, thus contributing to the sustainable and integrated development.

How can integration lead to more effective surveillance and cost efficiency?

For many user communities, at present, their situation awareness picture falls short of complementary information gathered by other sectoral users due to the lack of mutual exchange. Developing the necessary means to allow for such data and information exchange should enhance the different users' awareness picture. Such enhanced picture will allow for better decision making in a holistic approach and thus increase the efficiency of Member States' authorities.

By avoiding that different surveillance bodies multiply their efforts to gather the same maritime information (i.e., through parallel investments in fixed assets and/or by avoiding duplication of tasks and costs).

Why do we need a Communication on this subject?

Several aspects of maritime surveillance and monitoring have developed as a result of sector specific international and EU legislation. It is paramount that, in developing these sophisticated surveillance systems, the EU does not impose on Member States obligations that are conflicting while reaping the maximum potential from existing systems. In a context of ever increasing maritime traffic, migration pressure, illegal activities at sea, the EU needs to avail itself of an efficient and up to date maritime surveillance capability. Integrating the present sectoral surveillance systems and maximising synergies will provide the EU with such a 'state of the art' surveillance capability..

What does the Communication say?

It lays down four 'Guiding principles towards the development of a Common Information Sharing Environment:

Principle 1: An approach interlinking all user communities

All Member States' authorities involved in maritime surveillance should be entitled to receive and provide information on the basis of established access rights on a need-to-know basis from international, regional, Community, military and internal security systems and mechanisms.

Principle 2: Building a technical framework for interoperability and future integration

The technical framework supporting the common information sharing environment will make best use of existing systems, on the basis of interoperability. Such architecture is to be designed as a cost effective interaction of different information layers to enable the improvement of user defined pictures. Data should be collected, fused, analysed, disseminated and managed at the appropriate level of decentralisation, depending on security concerns (e.g. intelligence) and in compliance with data protection regulations, international rules and functional requirements.

Principle 3: Information exchange between civilian and military authorities

Surveillance information should be shared between civilian and military authorities to avoid duplication and hence be cost effective. Whilst recognising their distinct purposes and underlying mandates, this requires common standards and procedures for access to and use of the relevant information to allow for a two-directional information exchange.

Principle 4: Specific legal provisions

Legal obstacles to the exchange of data are to be identified and removed in the respect of Intellectual Property Rights, data protection and confidentiality provisions.

Which user communities are concerned?

Once the common information environment is completed, it will link all communities involved in maritime surveillance and monitoring. In particular:

  • Maritime transport Safety and Security

  • Fisheries

  • Search and Rescue

  • Protection of the marine environment

  • Defence (Navies)

  • Border control, illegal immigration

  • General law enforcement, combat against drugs tracking etc.

How are you going to overcome complex legal issues such as data protection and ownership?

We will need to identify the legal provisions that must be complied with to enable a lawful exchange of maritime surveillance data. A clear legal framework will need to be established, defining at least the nature of the data involved, the capability of the data providers, the purposes (and the methods) of the exchange and the potential recipients of the data. The necessary safeguards with regard to the confidentiality and security of (certain) data and the protection of personal data will need to be respected by the recipient of the data.

What are the next steps?

The work towards the development of a common information sharing environment will be carried out in close coordination with the different sectoral authorities involved at EU and Member State level and in compatibility with other ongoing sectoral work. First tasks will include the system architecture for the information exchange between the different sectoral systems, taking into account the existing legal frameworks and examining procedural, and technological barriers to information sharing.

In parallel, the Commission will be working on the results of the two pilot projects for the integration of surveillance that are in the process of being launched and that involve several coastal member States in the Mediterranean and the Northern Seas.

How can integrated surveillance help fighting piracy?

Integrating surveillance will result in an enhanced maritime awareness picture and a more accurate (comprehensive) package of information (decisional support). A better knowledge of the activities - legal or illegal - that are carried out at sea will also benefit high seas operations involved in fighting piracy.

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