Europe has 70,000 km of coastline, belonging to twenty-two Member States. The safety and security of the European Union are thus inextricably linked with the sea. Maritime Surveillance is therefore one of the most important policy areas for European institutions, agencies and bodies.
'Maritime Surveillance is the effective understanding of all activities carried out at sea that could impact the Security, safety, economy, or environment of the European Union and its Member States’.
(Source: Integrating Maritime Surveillance - Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament).
The aim of Maritime Surveillance is to understand, prevent (where applicable) and manage the actions and events that can have an impact on Maritime Safety and Security, search and rescue, accident and disaster response, fisheries control, marine pollution, customs, border control, general law enforcement and defence, as well as the economic interests of the EU.
The complexity of the issues at stake is reflected by the panorama of many different initiatives developed by EU institutions and bodies. Examples of such initiatives include EUROSUR (European Border Surveillance System), MARSUR (European Defence Agency's Maritime Surveillance project), EMSA’s (European Maritime Safety Agency) CleanSeaNet and SafeSeaNet, and DG MARE’s CISE initiative (Common Information Sharing of the Environment for the surveillance of the EU Maritime Domain).
All these initiatives underline the necessity for harmonisation and integration amongst the diverse legislation, operational approaches and technical capabilities of the coastal EU Member States. Efforts are therefore underway to implement a European Integrated Maritime Surveillance system. The aim of Integrated Maritime Surveillance is to develop ways of sharing data and information between the competent authorities of the EU and EEA (European Economic Area) States, in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
The Integrated Maritime Surveillance is part of a broader policy launched by the European Commission in October 2007: the Integrated Maritime Policy. The aims of this policy are to maximise the sustainable use of oceans and seas, enhance Europe’s knowledge and innovation potential in maritime affairs, ensure development and sustainable growth in coastal regions, strengthen Europe’s maritime leadership and raise the profile of maritime Europe.