Maritime Definitions

Maritime Definitions

Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) defines Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA):

“The effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain that could impact upon the security, safety, economy, or environment.”

Amendments to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue [IAMSAR] Manual, 24 May 2010

In the Maritime Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) of the European Union the definition in draft status in EUCISE2020 is taken unchanged from the original IMO definition.

Situational Awareness (SA)

  1. The knowledge of the elements in the battlespace necessary to make well-informed decisions.
  2. Processes involving knowledge and understanding of the environment that are critical to those who need to make decisions within the complex mission space.

Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA)

NATO terms Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA):

“An enabling capability which seeks to deliver the required Information Superiority in the maritime environment, to achieve a common understanding of the maritime situation, in order to increase effectiveness in the planning and conduct of operations.”

Reference: MCM-0140-2007 NATO Concept for Maritime Situational Awareness

Originally MSA was a US and NATO term closely related with Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), however, due to multiple usages the term MSA and MDA are almost indistinguishable.

Maritime Domain

The European Union/European Consilium defines the term Maritime Domain:

“That part of the maritime domain (q.v.) encompassed by the EU Member States’ Territorial Waters, Exclusive Economic Zone, Continental Shelf, Extended Continental Shelf and Search and Rescue areas, as defined by UNCLOS/SOLAS, together with all cargo and vessels flagged, beneficially owned by, or bound to the EU, as well as any Area of Operations outside the above that has been declared for an EU Maritime Operation.”

In the Maritime Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) of the European Union the definition in draft status in EUCISE2020 is:

“All areas and things of, under, relating to, adjacent to, or bordering on a sea, or ocean including all maritime-related activities, infrastructure, people, cargo and vessels and other conveyances.“

This definition is adapted unchanged in the Maritime Surveillance Networking (MARSUR Networking), the cooperation of 17 EU Member States and Norway delineated by the MARSUR Networking Technical Arrangement (TA).

Maritime Safety

The EU definition of Maritime Safety has reference the EU Maritime Surveillance and Mission Tasks, 22/03/2006: Security missions are conducted to monitor vessel and cargo movements for reasons of maritime safety, […]:

“Maritime safety is to continuously maintain and enhance safety in shipping and the protection of life, […] It concerns: safety of the ship, its crew and its passengers and/or cargo, safety of navigation, environmental safety […],“

Maritime Security

Definition is cross-referenced to EU definitions, see also NATO´s definitions proposed by the SCs in doc SH/J5/2009 – 207387 3000 TC-538/TT-4427/Ser: NC0027, 21 July, New Alliance Maritime Security Operations Concept. The definition used in the European Union:

“Maritime Security is the on going condition in the maritime environment where international and national laws are adhered to, the right of navigation is preserved, and citizens, vessels and resources are safe”.

The current proposed EU definition of Maritime Security has been adapted from Regulation (EC) No 725/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on enhancing ship and port facility security.

“Maritime Security is the combination of preventive and responsive measures to protect the maritime domain against threats and intentional unlawful acts”.

Note: “Maritime Security Best Practice Guidelines”, 24 Nov 2008, originating from the Chief of European Navies (CHENS) forum provides definitions and distinguishes unmistakably between the terms “Safety” and “Security”.

Maritime Governance

In the Maritime Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) of the European Union the definition is in Draft status in EUCISE2020:

“The national and international, legal and regulatory framework and associated enforcement processes that ensure the peaceful and sustainable use of the seas for commerce, food, energy and raw material.“

Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR)

For the term Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) exist in definitions used in the European Union in

  • Common Defence and Security Policy (CSDP) by EC (MIL)
  • European Union Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS)
  • Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) by DG MARE (CIV)
  • Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) by DG MARE with the Seven Maritime-CISE User Communities.
  • Further usage … tbd

The concept Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) is an overarching term not to be confused with the cooperation of 17 EU Member States and Norway named Maritime Surveillance Networking (MARSUR Networking).

Maritime Surveillance Networking (MARSUR Networking)

MARSUR Networking is the cooperation of 17 EU Member States and Norway delineated by the MARSUR Networking Technical Arrangement (TA) signed in 2011 which in turn defines Maritime Surveillance as:

“The systematic observation of aerospace, surface or subsurface contacts, areas, places or things by visual, acoustic, electronic, photographic or other means to achieve continuity of knowledge on activities in the Maritime Domain, in order to support a timely decision process.”


Maritime Surveillance Networking (MARSUR Networking) as the cooperation of 17 EU Member States and Norway delineated by the MARSUR Networking Technical Arrangement (TA) signed in 2011 defines Maritime Surveillance as:

“The MARSUR LIVE PHASE aims to further develop a capability that fulfills the need of maritime surveillance information sharing and networking whilst maximizing interoperability through the use of best practice. This will be based on the demonstration Network, as delivered by the 10-CAP-08 “MARSUR Networking – Architecture experimentation” EDA contract. The co-operation gives added value to national situational awareness and security of the Participants’ nations.

The aim of MARSUR LIVE PHASE is to share Maritime Surveillance information and further develop the existing concept, technical solutions and procedures as established by the demonstration phase. The decision to supply information into the system would be a responsibility of the participants, and is as such, the information is owned by the providing participant. Further dissemination of the information might be limited by the originator of the information.”

8 European Union Maritime Regions/Zones

  1. Baltic Sea
  2. North Sea
  3. Celtic Seas
  4. Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast
  5. Mediterranean
  6. Black Sea
  7. Outermost Regions
  8. Arctic Ocean

European Union Outermost Regions (OR)

  • Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte and Reunion (the French overseas departments), the Canaries (Spain), and the Acores and Madeira (Portugal).
  • In contrast to the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT), which have a statute of association with Member States, the OR are an integral part of the EU and must apply its laws and obligations. They enable the EU to have the world’s largest maritime territory with an exclusive economic zone covering 25 million km².

(Common) Operational Picture

Fusing fires, ISR, logistics, maneuver information across the entire battle space, into a single shared display enabling leadership decision-making processes.

Recognized Maritime Picture (RMP)

Originating to the NATO definition a plot compiled to depict maritime activity in the naval context is referred to as a Recognized Maritime Picture (RMP).  The term “recognized” is used to indicate that the picture has been evaluated prior to its dissemination.  In other words, rather than having stations simply pass data between themselves, there is a central authority to whom data is forwarded for compilation, evaluation and dissemination as a recognized picture – a Commander’s evaluation of what is happening in a given area.  Therefore a RMP has a very high operational value compared to the vast data collection from any AIS-Streaming creating a simplistic “Maritime Picture” (MP).

In the current global security environment, there are a bewildering variety of terms, definitions and acronyms referring to various types of picture building efforts.  However, the fundamental goal does not change – to support awareness through building a picture.

The picture is built from all data sources that can be accessed regarding maritime traffic in the area of concern.  Normally, a data source will provide position and identity information regarding a given vessel and, increasingly, amplifying data such as the vessel’s owner, cargo and other background information is included.  Assembled into the picture, all this data provides an awareness of the volume, location and nature of shipping activity and provides a background for deeper analysis of trends and vulnerabilities.  Data sources are identified through actively seeking them out and then collecting and assembling the data in a format suitable for exchange between numerous partners.

The original NATO definition for an RMP is in NATO publications available to the NATO Member States and participants in Partnership-for-Peace (PfP).


The environment, factors and conditions that must be understood to apply combat power, protect a force or complete a mission successfully. It includes the land, maritime, air and space environments; the enemy and friendly forces present therein; facilities; terrestrial and space weather; health hazards; terrain; the electromagnetic spectrum; and the information environment in the joint operations area and other areas of interest.

Communication and Information System (CIS)


Communications and Information Systems (CIS) is a collective term for communication systems and information systems. The terminology and further abbreviations used are:

  • C2 . Command and Control. Command and Control (C2). Processes of understanding, planning, directing, coordinating, controlling forces and operations in the accomplishment of the mission.
  • C3 . Command, Control and Communications. Command, Control, Communications (C3).
  • C4 . Command, Control, Communications, Computers . Command, Control, Communications, Computers (C4).
  • C2ISR . Command and Control Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C3ISR).
  • C3ISR . Command, Control, Communications Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C3ISR).
  • C4ISR . Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR).
  • C5ISR . Command, Control and Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR).


collected and to be expanded by Joachim Beckh


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