High on the EU’s security agenda are threats like irregular migration, human smuggling, maritime terrorism and piracy, as well as arms and drug trafficking. EU and national authorities rely on maritime surveillance data in handling such threats. Optimising maritime situational awareness (MSA) will help to better address these risks. “Large amounts of unexploited raw maritime data require intelligent correlation to produce higher level information,” explains Francesco Cazzato, coordinator of the EU-funded MARISA project. “Information sharing must be taken to the next level to further improve coordination and cross-sectoral cooperation and interoperability at national and EU levels, because it’s the most important way to cost-effectively enhance security and safety at sea.”
Joining forces across borders to combat threats at sea
By exploiting, correlating and combining many different data sources, the MARISA team developed, tested and successfully validated a toolkit of services that provides comprehensive and customisable MSA. Data fusion, web-based user interface, and networking and integration services are all incorporated into the toolkit. It allows for faster detection of new events, better informed decision making and reaching a joint understanding of a situation across borders. This will result in seamless cooperation between operating authorities and intervention forces on the ground, at sea or in the air. To enhance MSA, the toolkit delivers a suite of methods and modules to connect and combine various heterogeneous and homogeneous data and information from different sources, including the internet and social media channels. It provides solutions that originate from the use of open access to any Big Data source within the maritime surveillance domain. In addition, it improves knowledge through advanced correlation between huge amounts of data such as optical sensors, satellites and radar. Project partners addressed all ethical, moral and privacy aspects relating to the toolkit and accompanying services. End users from different countries have used and validated the toolkit in five operational trials performed in the North, Iberian, Ionian and Aegean seas and the Strait of Bonifacio.
Interoperable maritime surveillance systems
MARISA is compliant with the European Union Maritime Security Strategy and the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE). The developed state-of-the-art technologies are compatible with CISE data models. The toolkit can be seamlessly integrated into the CISE system. “In the current situation, where governments in the EU face existing and ongoing budget pressures, the need for cost-effective solutions is of paramount importance,” notes Cazzato. Significant cost savings can be achieved because of MARISA’s shared information approach that leads to less data duplication due to cross-sectorial information sources. What’s more, the newly developed tools have the potential to influence policymaking and policy implementation. “The project definitely demonstrated the next step in the overall evolution of MSA,” stresses Cazzato. “MARISA promotes better management of irregular immigration and human trafficking by enhancing coordination and information sharing amongst maritime surveillance authorities and border control agencies in EU countries,” concludes Cazzato. The services will enhance early detection of irregular immigration and human trafficking, and enforce rapid response through cooperation on search and rescue operations between authorities, agencies and Frontex – the EU agency primarily responsible for coordinating border control efforts.
MARISA, maritime, toolkit, border, maritime surveillance, MSA, sea, security, CISE