Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) Networking in the European Union

Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) Networking in the European Union


On the 30th of June 2011 the European Defence Agency (EDA) wrote history with a live presentation of »Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) Networking«. 150 senior high level representatives and nearly 300 guests were attending the presentation given by Mr. Pasi Staff, Chairman of Project Team. The MARSUR low cost solution is using existing resources and marks a new era in the European Union. Naval Headquarters linked their national system to a unique designed interface »MEXS« (MARSUR Exchange System). These interfaces enable secured cooperation over the internet. The importance of this successful project cannot be emphasized enough.

Europe’s geography determines the maritime environment as »Road of Economics« for a population of 500 million people. The merchant vessels in the EU represent the world’s largest fleet transporting almost 90% of theUnion’s external, and over 40% of its domestic trade. TheNorth Seais the fourth largest source of oil and gas in the world. The Mediterranean Sea represents only 1% of all ocean area, but carries 16% of all commercial traffic at sea, and 25% of all oil transports. The Armed Forces of EU’s 27 Member States rank second largest after China and before the United States. The EU is a top player in world’s economy and military, while on the other hand the Member States have lost nearly 40% of jobs in the shipbuilding industry, mainly to Asia. Just in China the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded nearly 10% in the first quarter of 2011, while the European GDP was averaging between 1-2%. The ecologic environment is affected on a global scale, which has impact on the fishery and food production in the EU. The Arctic region had a temperature increase of 3° Celsius in the past 50 years, contributing to the shrinking of the Arctic ice pack by 15 to 20%; half of Europe’s wetlands are expected to disappear by 2020.

The European Union has a need for an all-embracing maritime policy aimed at developing a thriving maritime economy, environmentally sound and with the support of marine scientific research, technology and innovation. To ensure a comprehensive approach the EU Commission therefore proposed an Integrated Maritime Policy to enhance the cooperation of all stakeholders. Collaboration under the Integrated Maritime Policy would enable the responsible decision makers to combine their intellects and resources. Best and fastest decisions are requiring information superiority, the knowledge resulting from information and the relationship between the data. This makes up a strange but fascinating world of Information Technology (IT), at once exhilarating but difficult to comprehend due to the high level of abstraction involved. The digital terrain of cooperation in networks is largely invisible for the public domain.

»Cooperation in Networks« is a concept approach defined as Network Enabled Capability (NEC), NATO Network Enabled Capability (NNEC); the European Network Enabled Capability (EURONEC) or also as the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE). These might be different words, but they are basically aiming at the same outcome: »People exchanging information based on mutual interests and trust«.

»Awareness« has different wordings in various concepts, but can basically be defined as a »unit of knowledge«. Maritime Surveillance is part of Maritime Situational Awareness which is the effective understanding of activities, associated with and occurring in the maritime domain that could impact the security, safety and environment.

Following a tasking by the EU Defence Ministers the project Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) started in 2006 with the aim to create a network using existing naval and maritime information systems. Overall goals were to avoid duplication of efforts and the use of already available technologies, data and information to enhance cooperation in a simple, efficient and low-cost solution for civil-military cooperation.

The extensive work by fifteen Member States in EDA created a basic MARSUR-network for the maritime systems ofFinland,France,United Kingdom,Italy,SpainandSweden. The network is at first meant to enhance the exchange of data and information for the conduct of maritime operations under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), a major element of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union (EU). However, in relation to the Integrated Maritime Policy of the Commission, the technology has the potential for interfacing military as well as civilian communication layers. This is again envisaged in the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) by the EU Commission.

The whole MARSUR project was conducted for only 930,000 Euros ($1.3 million) and will continue to exist for other Member States to join. Further development is planned in the framework of an EDA Category-B project. This project is to improve the functionalities, the level of confidentiality, and accommodate potential new requirements. The MARSUR network is a first step by the military, but a giant leap toward in an integrated maritime environment.

Gaining practical experience in surveillance cooperation like MARSUR is vital for the common understanding and interoperability. Practical trials will allow the Commission and Member States to gain further insight as to the complexities and the challenges on cross-border and cross-sector level cooperation. They will thus provide valuable additional input for future networking. This should result in more efficient operations and reduced costs.

The potential savings in the EU could be significant given the growing need to detect, identify, track, intercept and indict individuals engaging in smuggling, trafficking of human beings, illegal fishing, clandestine immigration, as well as to prevent accidents at sea and to safeguard the environment. The benefits will be in national security, maritime security and safety, the protection of the marine environment, border control and law enforcement.

Information advantage or superiority requires knowledge on how people process information, how they think and turn their thoughts into decisions and actions. This decision cycle depends on the very individual thinking skills and styles, on intellectual capabilities, culture, personality preferences, and favored ways of processing, absorbing, storing, and using information and knowledge and the objectives. The establishment and maintenance of good will and understanding is arguably the most important role in networking. People being the key to success must be the center of attention of any policy. This is why Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) Networking consists of the human relations established and the technology developed.

Only if people are convinced and understand, they will commit themselves fully to their task. The complex “thinking about the thinking” consist of different views and their relations. It is like a cube showing the different perspectives of the same situation from various sites: Rotating the view point – changing the look at a situation – will in turn change the view itself or picture of the situation. Perception is to be seen as the truth in the eye of the beholder.

Then again information superiority cannot be achieved all the time, and the condition of information superiority evaporates quickly. The means for acquiring and processing information and knowledge are dangerously vulnerable to both crude and sophisticated means of overt and surreptitious entry, manipulation, distortion, and denial. Moreover, the validity of information and knowledge is depending on what people believe or don’t believe, and lies in their cultural backgrounds, social mores, education, religions, traditions, and so forth. Because each human is wonderfully unique, every individual thinks in a unique way and the perceptions of reality vary widely.

For all these reason the maritime cooperation within the European Union must be supported in all fields and levels. It is the perception of the individual partners that is most important in this context, not one’s own. Information and data limited to one sector is no longer sufficient because too many variables can affect the overall awareness and too many pieces of information are distributed in different political, partial, geographical areas.

The development of the new modes of thought and innovative mechanisms required by an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union will depend to a large extent on its capacity to integrate experiences and best practices of stakeholders. The effective organization for such a policy should include the development of tools for collective learning and linkages between networks and the experience of the experts. It requires the active participation of the community for any concept to lead to the desired goal and to survive in reality.

Information and knowledge are fundamental to learning; they are the lifeblood of analysts and of decision makers. People ponder and reflect upon the information and knowledge they gather. They apply it to their inner worlds and often put it into practice in their particular walks of life. Well trained and educated future decision makers and maritime personnel are needed because change happens in the mind.  We have to part from old structured thinking and fully understand the capacity of maritime environmental awareness.  Expanding the mentality, making people understand and taking their fear of losing their power makes the difference. The best concept does not need much negotiation, but the best negotiating can’t bring success to an unpopular concept.

Unfortunately we all are very accustomed to having law enforcement, military or armed forces act as protectors against adversaries of internal or external threats for their safety and security. People have to understand that there is not automatism in creating safety and security that would result in protection against all odds. We have to make sure others can recognize when there is a problem, know the background, the playing field and our partners. Industry as a partner for example can make things easier. The role of the industry cannot be overlooked in making faculty retention and development easier for any initiative. Industry may have a vested interest in the governmental industrial complex, but without the active participation of the industry any program in a specialized governmental field that mixes with economy and trade business partners will not be able to meet general needs.

Our exquisite, fragile and delicate existence is nursed by the oceans, but our activities are a threat to the environment. An Integrated Maritime Policy and Surveillance among Member States hold enormous potential for all parties involved and to preserve and protect Europe’s vast maritime spaces and economy with the capabilities provided by technology. Security was in the past based solely on secrecy; today it needs transparency and trust. When these conditions are met, we encounter »Fair Winds« for the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) in cross-border and cross-sector cooperation. MARSUR could be the starting platform where the different actors can contribute their information, proficiency and experience. »Make the change happen, make it MARSUR«.

MARSUR Winds by Joachim Beckh

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