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ESA urges for unified maritime surveillance

Italy: There is a clear need for wider use of satellites. One possibility being tested in several countries is to combine satellite-based vessel detection with identification information. To discuss more about how different countries could access satellite-based maritime surveillance, European Space Agency (ESA) hosted a workshop at its centre for Earth observation in Italy. 
During the discussion, Guy Thomas from the US Coast Guard said, “By fusing satellite imagery with standard Automatic Identification System (AIS) information from both terrestrial and space systems, we could get a more detailed picture of what vessels are doing. This would allow us to react earlier where we see something suspicious.” 
In the near future, ESA’s Sentinel-1, Canada’s Radarsat constellation, Japan’s ALOS-2, Germany’s TerraSAR-X and Italy’s Cosmo Skymed follow-on missions all offer improved maritime surveillance. There is also a growing list of satellites carrying AIS receivers, such as the US Orbcomm network and Canada’s Exact Earth microsatellites. By 2013, these companies will have at least 25 AIS receivers in space.  According to the ESA’s press statement, while satellites can contribute to monitoring the oceans for illegal activity, no single country can afford to set up a system for maritime surveillance on a global scale. An approach that fosters international collaboration to exchange and access satellite information is needed. However, ESA observed that some countries already use satellites for surveillance. For example, Collecte Localisation Satellites, CLS, monitors illegal fishing around the Kergulan Islands in the Indian Ocean for the French Navy. The European Maritime Safety Agency operates a satellite-based oil pollution monitoring system in European waters. Both services are based on the Radarsat-2 and Envisat satellites.
Captain Leopoldo Manna, from the Italian Coast Guard, summarised, “There are situations, such as piracy, illegal fisheries and trafficking in open waters where conventional techniques cannot guarantee adequate coverage. In such situations, satellites can often provide useful information to help optimise the deployment of conventional assets.
“The workshop represents the start of a process by which different organisations worldwide engaged in maritime safety and security can agree on how to ensure systematic access to satellite-based surveillance.”
Source: ESA