EDA symposium explores the way ahead for enhancing European Maritime Situational Awareness

Source: European Defence Agency (EDA)

On the 18th of November, the Agency hosted the first EDA Symposium on Maritime Situational Awareness, focused on the key challenges and opportunities in this crucial domain. The symposium coincides with the upcoming launch of a new EDA programme dedicated to Maritime Situational Awareness. The one-day event provided a forum for exploration of new avenues of cooperation in this domain and was attended by over 80 officials from 18 EU Member States as well as EU institutions involved in maritime security and defence. 

The event was opened by EDA Chief Executive, Jiří Šedivý and by Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo, Chief of the Portuguese Navy. Underscoring the work already done by EDA on Maritime Situational Awareness, Mr Šedivý, said; “Building on what has been already achieved and starting from what you, the Member States, have asked us to support you on – the development of the MARSUR networking and technology – we believe that we should now go a step further. That’s why we propose the development of a programme for an overarching approach to situational awareness.”

In his opening address, Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo, Chief of the Portuguese Navy, emphasised the importance of the maritime domain today for Europe, “more than 60% of European trade is made by sea, 99% of its digital traffic with other continents and areas are made through underwater cabling, about 55% of Crude oil, and almost 30% of natural gas, comes through European maritime borders, and these numbers will increase. To do Maritime Situational Awareness, we need to develop the capabilities to detect and sense the pattern of life at sea.”

Maritime security, and protection of critical maritime infrastructure is of crucial importance. The foundations of maritime security are based on the need to be able to maintain situational awareness of the maritime domain. With guidance provided by both the EU’s Strategic Compass and the EU Maritime Security Strategy to further develop capabilities and the need for deeper cooperation, Maritime Situational Awareness needs to be addressed in a more coherent manner to ensure consistency and efficiency.

The programme of the event covered the defence, civil and academic perspective, providing the audience of naval experts a forum to explore the need for a more effective approach to maritime surveillance. Both Operational Commanders from EUNAVFOR ATALANTA and EUNAVFORMED IRINI addressed the symposium from the defence perspective. In seeking to bring tangible capability solutions forward, EDA presented its proposal to launch a new programme on Maritime Situational Awareness.


New EDA Programme 
EDA briefed participants on a new Category A programme will establish a forum for the synchronisation of capability developments activities within the military domain, seeking to provide a solid legal framework for cooperation in the development of full spectrum capabilities for Maritime Situational Awareness.

Primarily it will synchronise all capability development efforts in this area, supporting coherence of the defence landscape and cooperation among participating Member States, while contributing to effective use of resources. Secondly, it will set a framework for quick implementation of a broad spectrum of capability development, implementing projects with a common vision and based on agreed capability development priorities. In addition, the programme will reinforce the MARSUR technology, will establish clear rules for participation and interaction with third parties, and will support joint procurement of MSA related equipment.


Next steps 
The event saw great interest and was attended by 80 persons from 18 EU countries as well as EU institutions involved in maritime security and defence, such as EEAS, EUMS, Operation ATALANTA, Operation IRINI, DG DEFIS, DG MARE, EMSA, EFCA, FRONTEX, and SATCEN.A second EDA MSA symposium which will take place in March 2023 will focus on the details on the provisions of the Category A Programme Arrangement.

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