EU: 36 actions and €550 million for healthier and safer seas

At the ongoing EU-hosted Our Ocean conference in Malta (5-6 October), the European Union has committed to 36 tangible actions to foster healthier, cleaner, safer and more secure seas.

Foto: EU / Laurent Chamussy

The EU-statement says:

"Amounting to over €550 million and involving activities worldwide, the announcements underline the EU's determination to improve the situation of the seas and send a positive signal of encouragement to the rest of the world – governments and private sector alike - to step up and tackle the growing ocean challenges, from plastic pollution and protecting marine life to the impact of climate change and criminal activities at sea."

Below are som of the actions, concerning shipping. The full list is available here.

• €37.5 million to ensure maritime security and counter piracy along the south-eastern African coastline and in the Indian Ocean. The funds are to be implemented by four regional organisations (IGAD, COMESA, EAC and IOC) in cooperation with UNODC, INTERPOL and FAO. The programme supports alternative livelihood initiatives in the coastal pirate areas of Somalia, investigation capacities at national and regional level, prison reforms, prosecution and judicial capacity, disruption of illegal financial flows, combating money laundering, and various other maritime tasks, in addition to a regional mechanism for the coordination and exchange of maritime information.

• €4 million of investment in its satellite monitoring programme (Copernicus) in 2017 to support EU agencies and EU Member States in monitoring oil pollution and large-scale commercial fisheries (including the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing) in the Northeast Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the North Sea, the Black Sea, the Pacific Ocean and around the Canary Islands. Copernicus will also introduce new services to support law enforcement and navigation safety in ice-infested areas.

• continued support for maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, including through the Gulf of Guinea Inter-Regional Network and the launch of two new programmes: the SWAIMS programme (Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security), worth €29 million, and the programme to improving port security in West and Central Africa, worth €8.5 million.

• €1 million in 2017 to support the upgrading of the ICT systems of EU maritime authorities and facilitate cooperation between them. Furthermore, the European Union announced that it will contribute €80,000 to facilitate cooperation between coastguard authorities in Europe.

• the launch of a prototype surveillance tool in September 2017 which detects ships to reveal the extent of human activities at sea. The 'Search for Unidentified Maritime Objects' tool, or 'SUMO' for short, is a piece of software that automatically analyses data from radar imaging satellites to find vessels as small as 1 metre long, even in cloudy conditions or at night. The SUMO tool is open source, to promote uptake by users and developers and facilitate international cooperation on mapping of ship routes, monitoring shipping intensity, identifying polluting ships, monitoring fishing activities, countering piracy and smuggling, and controlling maritime borders.

• draft measures in 2017 to reduce the discharges of ship-generated waste and cargo residues into the sea.

• More than €250 million to fund marine and maritime research in 2017. This includes €40 million to support low-emission and advanced waterborne transport and over €30 million for marine energy. Furthermore, the EU announced that it will provide €12 million to support two new innovation projects on cleaning actions to combat marine litter and other pollutants. Finally, the European Union announced to support the BlueMED Initiative for cooperation on a healthy, productive and resilient Mediterranean Sea through science and research with over €50 million.

• A €14.5 million investment initiative in 2017 to promote a sustainable blue economy in the European Union. Around €8 million of the fund is to provide start-up grants for high-potential projects in emerging blue economy sectors across the EU. In order to better monitor and combat marine litter, a further €2 million will go towards providing support for innovative technologies to monitor and/or combat marine litter in waters around the European Union. Furthermore, €3 million will go towards facilitating twinning projects in the Mediterranean Sea Basin, such as between maritime training and education institutes, businesses operating in the blue economy and local fishing communities. Finally, €1.5 million is to be allocated to restoring marine and coastal ecosystems in the Mediterranean.

• Its intention to develop the Pilot Blue Science Cloud, which is to modernise the process of accessing, managing and using marine data, with the goal of improving the handling of large quantities of different marine and maritime data using cloud technologies. Furthermore, the Blue Cloud is intended to further foster work between EU scientists and their international partners. Cloud technologies can improve global and regional ocean observations and forecasting, as promoted in the framework of the G7 Future of the Sea and Oceans initiative and as part of the worldwide effort to build an improved Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

• A €10 million project with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) concerning climate change mitigation in the maritime shipping sector. The project aims to establish five Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres (MTCCs), one in each of the target regions – Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific – thereby forming a global network. The network's task is to enable developing countries in these regions to develop energy-efficiency measures in maritime transport.

• €1.5 million for reducing black carbon emissions in the Arctic. The project is intended to reinforce international cooperation to protect the Arctic environment.