Maritime surveillance is a key element to preventing unlawful activities at sea. The overall objective of integrating maritime surveillance systems at EU level is to improve the effectiveness of the authorities responsible for maritime activities by making available more tools and more information necessary for the performance of their duties. It is one of the key objectives of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy.
Integrating maritime surveillance should result in more efficient operations and reduced operating costs. The potential savings at EU level are significant, given the growing need to detect, identify, track, intercept and indict individuals engaging in smuggling, trafficking of human beings, illegal fishing, immigration, as well as the task to prevent accidents at sea and to safeguard the marine environment. The benefits resulting from this process will positively affect national security, maritime safety and security, the protection of the marine environment, border control and law enforcement in general.
The EU is committed to make its best to achieve these goals and to play its part in surveillance. A number of Community agencies are already in place to deal with surveillance issues. And pilot projects with an impact on surveillance in the Mediterranean and other sea basins are in the pipeline.
The work on Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) is well underway and significant progress has already been made: CISE involves more than 400 national authorities and these have registered more than 1500 data demands across sectors. This is more than initially expected. MSs have welcomed this initiative and appreciated results achieved so far as they identified benefits resulting from data sharing. Next step will be to analyze and resolve technology, legal and financial issues related to information sharing
European Commission initiative for Member States integration of maritime surveillance information network in the Mediterranean and its Atlantic approaches was launched in December 2008. This so called 'BluemassMed' ('BMM') pilot project focuses on the Mediterranean and its Atlantic approach. BMM is going to provide substantial input to the process leading towards the establishment of the CISE. It will conduct practical tests on cross-border and cross-sectoral information exchange by national authorities responsible for monitoring and surveillance operations.
Main focus for upcoming technical demonstration will be on introducing technical interfaces between partners and their surveillance systems in order to test idea of EU level decentralised approach for information exchange. This means that there will not be any central controlling entity established or nominated. This BMM network is designed to support flexible data sharing, integration and exploitation of maritime surveillance data by participating competent authorities.
Indeed, even though authorities would be connected within BMM network, they must always act according to their duties, rights and competences. The complexity of these functionalities relates therefore to the wide diversity of user communities, each of them having specific kind of data and rules for handling them, the heterogeneity of the current legal framework, and the high number of institutional actors. BMM project will provide a good example of how these challenges can be addressed and solved.
How BMM can contribute to the objectives of the CISE?
- Establish a complete pool of available information across sectors and borders: BMM will test, through practical scenarios, how the information can be shared in different operational cases.
- Establish an electronic contact directory amongst users: BMM will establish a complete "contact directory" in order to reach partners automatically.
- Trigger enhanced cooperation between authorities: Practical planning during the project has already triggered higher level of collaboration.
- Remove legal barriers for cross-sectorial and cross-border data exchange: Legal working group has defined set of rules which might hamper or slow down information exchange. However, main obstacles for information exchanges are of cultural and technical nature
- Enable IT based information exchange ‘from machine to machine’: BMM is testing an interoperability framework in order to avoid heavy and impractical standardisation of all existing IT systems and networks and to build on the IT systems existing in the different sectors.
- Enhance information quality: BMM network will be able to compare different data thus contributing to the quality of surveillance data. .
- Reduce data duplication: BMM can determine the existing situation as regards data between different partners.
As a conclusion, BMM is a very important, EU wide initiative that gives strong political support to the development of the CISE. It will also increase the understanding of the need for better regional operational cooperation, which is the next big challenge that the EU will need to address.
National Expert for maritime surveillance within Directorate for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission