At the forefront of this effort is the Agency’s 16-year old MARSUR (“Maritime Surveillance”) project, which knits together 22 navies for the exchange of maritime surveillance information, and which has just entered its third phase of development.
“One of the most important things about MARSUR is that it was developed by the Member States for the Member States: that is, their navies working together to find the technical solutions they needed,” said Georgi Georgiev, EDA’s Project Officer for Maritime Capabilities Support. “There was no formal common funding, and so it was a very low-cost endeavor. Their total investment investment (excluding investment in system integration at national level) over the past 15 years has only been about four million euros.”
For what MARSUR navies have achieved in terms of capability, that is a very tidy return on investment, indeed. Launched in 2005 as a low-key network for exchanging open-source maritime information among a handful of national navies, MARSUR has since matured into a multi-faceted communications platform which is operational and fully supports the needs of the MARSUR navies when conducting their national operations. The system enables a wide scope of services ranging from email, instant messaging, secure voice over IP, alerts, notifications and white boarding, or on-screen file sharing, to video exchanges, information recovery, and data transfers of tracks.
MARSUR’s projected membership comprises Germany, which leads the effort, plus the navies of 15 other EDA Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden), as well as the EU’s Satellite Centre (SatCen), of which the latter brings unique value added to the project’s activities. However, another six countries (Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, and the UK) participate in the MARSUR multinational agreement – not restricted to the EU – called Technical Arrangement by which they commit to share maritime surveillance information on voluntary baisis.
Tested at Operation SOPHIA
The heart of project’s data exchange activity is its ‘MARSUR Exchange System’ (MEXS) software, whose operational utility was demonstrated in 2017 during the height of the EU’s Operation SOPHIA to prevent people smuggling and loss of life at sea in the Mediterranean. MARSUR is also associated with the eight-nation PESCO project, UMS (Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance), which aims to integrate land-based surveillance systems and maritime and air platforms for real-time distribution of information.
Noteworthy, too, is the fact that MARSUR has been involved in OCEAN2020, the largest technology demonstration project funded by the EU under the European Commission’s Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) to build up a recognised maritime picture by integrating data from multiple naval sources and unmanned systems. MARSUR was one of three networks selected to create a simulated EU maritime operations centre for the project, for example.