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EU Satellites and Their Role in Maritime Security, Safety and Marine Environmental Protection

Angela Carpenter

Satellite technology offers many benefits to Europe's maritime regions and its marine environment. They have enabled the EU and its agencies to monitor large numbers of ships sailing in its waters under the Long-Range Identification and Tracking System (LRIT), enhancing security by tracking ships and allowing member states to evaluate the security risks posed by a ship and take action to reduce that risk. Satellites are used to track and monitor ships under SafeSeaNet (SSN), enhancing safety and efficiency of maritime traffic, reducing accidents or potentially dangerous incidents, and for search and rescue activities. SSN is also linked to a system, the Hybrid European Targeting and Inspection System (THETIS), which enables states to determine which ships entering ports need to be inspected against international standards and conventions (structural, safety equipment, crew training and safety for example). Finally, SSN can be used to track ships to ensure they do not intentionally pollute the marine environment, and to assist in a prompt response to maritime accidents which result in major pollution incidents. Satellites covering the North Sea region, for example, have proved particularly useful in extending coverage of surveillance to identify illegal pollution taking place under the cover of darkness.

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