Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA) is the effective understanding of activities, associated with and occurring in the maritime domain that could impact on the security, safety and environment of the European Union and its Member States.
Following a tasking by the EU-Defence Ministers in late 2005, EDA launched in September 2006 the Maritime Surveillance project (MARSUR), with the aim to create a network using existing naval and maritime information exchange systems. Overall goals are to avoid duplication of effort and the use of available technologies, data and information, to enhance cooperation in a simple, efficient and low-cost solution for military and civil cooperation, and to support safety and security.
After extensive work by fifteen Member States the project came to a decisive point as it entered the end of the demonstration phase for a basic MARSUR-Network. The live demonstration during the Distinguished Visitors Day (DV-Day) on 30 June 2011 was using the connections between independent systems from Italy, Finland, France, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Spain and Sweden. The full success clearly proved the capabilities of the chosen federated system-of-systems approach.
On the 27th October 2011 Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, signed the Technical Agreement (TA) for the MARSUR LIVE PHASE, followed by Bulgaria, Latvia and Norway (in 2012), EU SATCEN (in 2017), Malta and EDA (in 2018) and Slovenia (in 2019). The MARSUR LIVE PHASE aims to further develop a capability that fulfils the need of maritime surveillance information sharing and networking whilst maximizing interoperability and standardization. It is based on the demonstration Network, as delivered by the 10-CAP-08 “MARSUR Networking – Architecture experimentation” EDA contract.
MARSUR Networking improves what among naval personnel is called the “Recognised Maritime Picture”, i.e. a consolidated, verified picture including civilian vessels, the so-called white shipping. The recognised maritime picture is a key element for Maritime Situational Awareness which is the basis for any maritime operation. MARSUR Networking therefore enhances the maritime security of the participating nations.
The scope of the MARSUR LIVE PHASE ranges from the Basic Level with the exchange of national point of contact information with the intention of manually sharing maritime surveillance information to the Advanced Level of information exchange. While the Basic Level is mandatory for all participants, the Advanced Level including the automated exchange of data obtained through national analysis of information, according to applicable national regulations is not yet fully implemented. The MARSUR Management Group has decided in May 2016 to pursue the implementation of the Advanced Level for all participants as soon as possible ideally within three years.
The main objective of MARSUR is to contribute, pursuant to national laws and regulations, to security, safety and protection of the environment in the maritime domain and improve maritime situational awareness, produce and share maritime situational awareness information, improve interoperability and co-operation between EU military and civilian maritime authorities and other international maritime actors.
On 28 October 2014 the developed MARSUR Exchange System (MEXS 2.0) was introduced into the operational MARSUR LIVE PHASE during the main event at the EURONAVAL, Le Bourget, Paris, France.
As the MARSUR Networking was designed to support CSDP operations from the beginning, EDA has decided to promote the use of the MARSUR networking in support the CSDP Operation SOPHIA. For this purpose, EDA has sponsored the training of MARSUR Operators and Technicians in a Workshop in January 2017 in Rome and has sponsored and supported the conduct of a capability demonstration at the EUNAVFORMED OHQ for the Operation SOPHIA in May 2017. This capability demonstration included a mobile MARSUR component to demonstrate the potential use of MARSUR as a Maritime Situational Awareness tool deployed on a Force HQ afloat directly connected to the OHQ.
On 06 December 2016, 15 of the participating members agreed on a Project Arrangement (PA) “MARSUR II – Adaptive Maintenance” to ensure Advanced Level exchange of information and adaptive maintenance of the MARSUR hardware and software for the period 2017-2019. In August 2019 the contributing members agreed to extend the adaptive maintenance with one year till the end of 2020.
In August 2019 the next version of the MARSUR Exchange System (MEXS 3.0) was agreed and will replace the existing software.
As of September 2019, Bulgaria is in the final steps of joining the PA and implement MARSUR Advanced Level, while Croatia is in the national staffing process for signing the TA and joining the MARSUR community.
MARSUR is intended to serve as a military layer of the EU Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE).