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Enhancing maritime surveillance: EDA and SatCen begin new phase of cooperation

The European Defence Agency (EDA) and the European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen) signed a bilateral agreement on 14 March 2024 to initiate a new phase of cooperation within MARSUR, the maritime surveillance information exchange system crafted by EDA. 

Launched in 2005 as a network for sharing open-source maritime information, MARSUR has since matured into a multi-faceted information exchange platform. The multinational initiative resulting from this effort now encompasses 22 European navies. Out of this pool, under the EDA framework, 16 EU navies are developing a capability for the automatic exchange of maritime surveillance information and decision-making support. 

MARSUR’s wide scope of services allow for information exchange, coordination and support to decision-making, aiming to improve the common ‘Recognised Maritime Picture’. The network plays an important role as a defence layer of the EU framework for exchanging information and maritime situation awareness, known as the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE). 

Now in its third stage of development, which is known as MARSUR III, the project is upgrading its technology and capabilities. That will soon include the exchange of classified information.  The bilateral agreement will provide the operational basis for the exchange of relevant data between SatCen and the MARSUR community through a secure network. 

This bilateral agreement is a unique mechanism introduced under the MARSUR III project to involve SatCen in EDA ad hoc activities under the control and funding of the contributing Member States,” said EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý. “I am pleased to sign it today on behalf of the MARSUR III contributing members,” he said. 

SatCen has aligned its efforts with EDA to define requirements and support maritime situational awareness with satellite data and analysis. SatCen joined the initiative in 2017 and in May 2021 signed the MARSUR III project arrangement for 2021-2026 and the way ahead. 

SatCen Director, Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, said: “I look forward to intensifying the excellent inter-agency collaboration by concluding this agreement, which will solidify the SatCen collaboration within MARSUR over the long term, and I would like to thank all actors involved, in particular the Member States as well as the teams of SatCen and EDA.”  

MARSUR III will now benefit from SatCen’s expertise, particularly in terms of governance, as it takes a role as permanent chair of the Technical Advisory Board, in training of operators and technicians, exchanging information and products, and connecting to CISE with its bridging node. 

SatCen will in turn connect its resources to the information held by European navies. SatCen will also welcome two MARSUR maritime surveillance experts, funded by the MARSUR community.

During the signing ceremony, Commander Joachim Weidmann, Chairperson of the MARSUR Management Group and representing the participating nations, said: “The bilateral agreement between EDA and SatCen is a milestone, and it is important that both organisations show the willingness to succeed in ensuring that relevant operational maritime information is shared in the required time.” 

EDA's wider role   

EDA supports its 27 Member States in improving their defence capabilities through European cooperation. Acting as an enabler and facilitator for Ministries of Defence willing to engage in collaborative capability projects, the Agency has become the hub for European defence cooperation with expertise and networks allowing it to the whole spectrum of defence capabilities.   
Member States use EDA as an intergovernmental expert platform where their collaborative projects are supported, facilitated, and implemented. For more details, please see here.