Maritime spaces are a vital part of the European economy. Nearly 90% of the European Union’s external trade and 40% of internal trade is transported by sea. Protection of global sea lanes is now considered one of the essential elements of security for both states and citizens.

Maritime Surveillance (MS) activities are carried out mainly by States and related Authorities. These activities have both national and transnational nature (mostly transnational) and fall under the responsibility of many actors (both at regional, national and transnational level). Navigation zones immensity raises various problems as the sea is free and accessible worldwide Maritime surveillance covers not only protection and safety of humans and goods during transportation but also environment protection and risks prevention.

The surveillance activities are covering the following fields:

  • Maritime security which covers preventing and combating illicit acts like terrorism, malicious actions against ship, Piracy, crew and passengers or harbor infrastructures;
  • Transport safety and maritime traffic facilitation fluidity;
  • Fishery control;
  • Environment;
  • Border control and Migration;
  • Trade and economy.

Figure 3 – Common Information Sharing Environment in the EU

All these sectors are usually under the responsibility of Independent Authority that operates at several levels, many time without connections and data/knowledge exchange.

Europe needs a more comprehensive approach at sea. EUMSS[1], the EU Maritime Security Strategy, advocates the “strengthening of the information exchange to optimize the surveillance of the EU maritime area and its maritime borders” and provides a common framework, creating also the link between internal and external policies, bridging the civilian–military worlds. The following strategic systems complete the framework for delivering the strategy:

  • EUROSUR[2], the European Border Surveillance System, has the objective of strengthening the Union’s external borders especially its southern maritime and eastern land borders, and step up the fight against irregular migration and cross-border crime. This is implemented through the introduction of a mechanism allowing the different national border authorities, to share operational information with a view to cooperating more close to each other, with Frontex (the EU agency responsible for border coordination), and with other European and international organizations working in the field. The extension of the operational duties of Frontex requires that all existing resources are jointly and efficiently exploited to deliver the full capabilities in border surveillance.
  • CISE[3], the Maritime Common Information Sharing Environment, seeks to further enhance and promote relevant information sharing between authorities involved in maritime surveillance from coastguards and navies to port authorities, fisheries controls, customs authorities and environment monitoring and control bodies.

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most strategic maritime basins. In such a sensitive, unequal and geopolitically unstable region, it is necessary for the Mediterranean states to develop their maritime surveillance. The Sea is at the heart of international trades.

It represents 1% of the surface of the seas and concentrates 25% of global traffic and 30% of the world’s oil traffic.

The Suez Canal plays a decisive role in supplying Europe and the American continent with hydrocarbons through the Straits of Gibraltar. More than 300 ships cross the Strait of Gibraltar every day, 100 the Suez Canal, 50 the Bosphorus Strait, 6 the Strait of Bonifacio, and nearly 2,000 vessels of all sorts are daily present at sea or in harbours.

Given the importance of this traffic and the ecological vulnerability of this sea, the Mediterranean Sea has been classified as a special area by the MARPOL 73/78 international convention.[4]