Friday, November 14, 2014

New EU Piracy Trial Aims to Increase Security for Freight and Container Vessels

European Commission Accedes to Request to Extend Testing of PMAR Software System
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – EAST AFRICA – The scientific and technical arm of the European Commission, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed, and is now testing, a new software system which aims to help fight piracy and improve safety at sea for the myriad freight and containers ships as well as local fishing fleets. Operating from two maritime operational centres in Kenya and the Seychelles and known as the Piracy, Maritime Awareness and Risks (PMAR) system, the software provides a live picture of vessel traffic activity, indicating current ship positions on a digital map.

By combining data from a number of different vessel reporting and earth observation systems, it creates a single maritime picture of the entire western Indian Ocean. This region-wide picture complements the smaller scale coastal one used by individual countries, and can be used also to combat illegal fishing or immigration. The tool furthermore allows the production of maps detailing past piracy events or historic ship traffic density.

The system is the result of a three-year study carried out by JRC researchers with the intention of building up maritime activity awareness for authorities in regions affected by piracy. The study was originally initiated following a request from the European Parliament and the first phase led to an invitation from the piracy-affected states for a continuation. This latest one year trial, with the full collaboration of the countries concerned, will help to improve maritime surveillance capability in the area, taking into account existing infrastructures as well as considering specific regional needs.

Maritime awareness and maritime security research are key pillars of the recently adopted EU Maritime Security Strategy, which is a European response to threats and risks in the global maritime domain. This trial implementation of the PMAR system is financed through the 10th European Development Fund under the EU's programme to promote regional maritime security in eastern and southern Africa.

The programme is managed by the Indian Ocean Commission, an international cooperation between the five island states of Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros and Réunion. The project is aligned with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Djibouti code of conduct concerning the repression of piracy, and complements other EU and international initiatives on capacity building in the region.