Last week (15-20 January), an EDA workshop aimed at training operators and technicians in the daily use of Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) capabilities was held at the HQ of operation SOPHIA in Rome.
The humanitarian crisis resulting from migration via the Mediterranean has led to EU Member States launching a response. So far there are five Naval Operations led by military and civilian entities as well as numerous operations run by Non-Governmental Organisations. While the focus and the aim of military operations such as the NATO-led Ocean Shield and the EU NAVFORMED Operation SOPHIA may differ, one element is vital to all naval operations: Maritime Situational Awareness.
Naval Forces the world over are striving to establish what is called a recognized maritime picture. In basic terms that means finding out exactly what is happening in any given operational area at sea, including whether ships (‘contacts’ in naval terms) are transiting the area or working within it.
Maritime Situational Awareness also includes knowledge about events taking place in and around a maritime area. Current operations in the Mediterranean have underlined the need to include both military and civilian information to get a full picture. There are many different military and civilians systems around – all of which need to be compiled, verified and analysed – so a significant challenge lies in bringing the relevant information together.
To this end, the European Defence Agency (EDA) helped to design an interface acting as a system of systems to support CSDP operations such as the EU NAVFORMED Operation SOPHIA. It does this by enabling maritime headquarters to exchange data and information with other networks through various services such as chat, email, tactical drawing, video recordings and track streaming. The SOPHIA Operational Headquarters was connected to the MARSUR Networking Community which encompasses 17 EU Member States plus Norway.
To enhance the input of information, EDA has sponsored and designed a complex workshop which trains operators and technicians in the daily use of the MARSUR capability. This training took place from 15-20 Jan 2017 in Rome, Italy. As a lead nation of Operation SOPHIA and a host nation for the training, Italy offered ideal training conditions. 36 participants from 12 Member States and Norway spent a week at the Italian Tor di Quinto Naval Club. The participants were joined by MARSUR contractors’ representatives, trainers and representatives from the MARSUR community and representatives from the Italian Navy and Operational Headquarters.
The week provided a unique opportunity to exchange experience, skills and knowledge about the MARSUR capability and the requirements of Operation SOPHIA. Most of all, meeting counterparts from other Member States helped to personalise the otherwise faceless messages on the screen. The resulting network serves to build up the most important asset of information exchange and cooperation: trust.
To provide even more support to Operation SOPHIA, representatives from EDA met with staff from the SOPHIA Operational Headquarters, the Italian Navy and the MARSUR community to ensure that information is sent not only from those ships engaged in Operation SOPHIA, but also all Member States’ ships transiting the Mediterranean.
This type of cooperation is a good example of the implementation of the EU Maritime Security Strategy which envisions cross-sectoral information exchange among European actors.