Making space for the oceans

08 June 2020
Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus all contribute to making our seas and oceans safer and more sustainable
Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus all contribute to making our seas and oceans safer and more sustainable

On June 8 the world celebrates World Oceans Day, when people around the planet celebrate our oceans and seas and work to raise awareness about problems facing the marine environment. The EU space programmes Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus, with their positioning, navigation and Earth observation services, are helping to monitor and protect the oceans and make Europe’s Blue Economy more sustainable, in support of the European Green Deal agenda.

The EU space services play a key role in driving innovation in the context of marine sustainability by enabling the development of applications and services that help monitor and protect the marine environment and marine bio-resources. At the same time, highly accurate navigation and positioning information is helping to make maritime transport more efficient, safe and sustainable.

Increasing safety, protecting the environment

EGNOS, Europe’s sat-nav augmentation system, provides users with more accurate position information compared to GPS alone and a new maritime service based on the current version (EGNOS V2) will provide users with integrity information and maritime safety information, i.e. navigational warnings and notice to mariners, in line with IALA Guidelines. EGNOS V3, the planned evolution of this system, will augment Galileo signals in addition to GPS. 

Watch this: EGNOS and Galileo for Waterborne Transport

A number of projects leverage EGNSS (Galileo and EGNOS) to increase maritime safety and help protect the environment. The EGNOSforAtoN project demonstrated operationally how to use EGNOS as source of differential corrections for IALA beacons and AIS stations in a cost-efficient way and in line with IALA Guidelines. The SeaSOLAS project has defined a potential maritime safety service based on EGNOS V3-enabled receivers on vessels, while the Hull-to-Hull project has defined new safety concepts based on EGNSS for operations between vessels and also for docking.

 The Safeport project delivered an EGNOS-based portable pilot unit and an app for pilotage and docking operations (SafePilot). The app is continuing to evolve and it is available for tablets and SmartWatches.

What’s more, EGNOS is helping to increase our awareness of the oceans through projects like CoSuDEC, which has created a system for enhanced surveying of coastal waters using standard navigation equipment. 

EGNSS is also a key enabler of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which is used on ships and by vessel traffic services to identify and locate vessels. It also supports Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT), which is designed to collect and disseminate vessel position information. In so doing, the European space programmes are enabling more efficient traffic management and safer maritime navigation, and providing greater situational awareness in the marine environment.

In relation to this, the GNSS-enabled MEDUSE project aims at a more sustainable use of marine parks, and provides services to marine park users and tools to the park authorities, allowing them to track and trace vessels within restricted marine areas using AIS Class B transponders with EGNOS.

Fighting illegal fishing

GNSS also enables position reporting (the so-called ‘blue box’) in the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), which is used in fisheries monitoring and provides data to the fisheries authorities on the location, course and speed of vessels. When combined with remote imagery in the Vessel Detection System (VDS), satellite technology is a key tool in the fight against illegal fishing, helping to identify and catch violators and protect fish stocks.

Read this: Space – underpinning the blue economy

Galileo satellites carry a SAR payload and the Galileo SAR service is an important contributor to the Global Cospas-Sarsat service for Search & Rescue. The Galileo SAR service is comprised of two components: an automatic Forward Link distress alert Service (FLS) and a Return Link Service (RLS), launched earlier this year, which allows people in distress to receive automatic acknowledgement that their alert has been received and is being processed. 

This combination, along with the increased positioning accuracy provided by Galileo, has reduced the time it takes to detect a person lost at sea from three hours to just 10 minutes after the distress beacon is activated. Localisation of the distress beacon has also improved - from 10 km to less than 5 km.

The Helios Project has developed maritime search and rescue beacons for vessels (EPIRBs) and for personal use (PLBs), which are already on the market and using Galileo (to see all Galileo enabled PLBs click here).

Europe’s eyes on Earth

It is not only the EGNSS component of the EU Space Programme that is helping support sustainability of our oceans and seas. Copernicus, “Europe’s eyes on Earth,” provides essential information in six main domains, including atmosphere monitoring, marine environment monitoring, and climate monitoring. In particular, the observations and forecasts produced by the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS) support marine applications, including safety, monitoring of marine resources and of the coastal and marine environment, in addition to providing weather, seasonal and climate forecasts.

According to the EU Blue Economy Report 2019, the usefulness of CMEMS is reflected in the increasing number of users not only among universities and public authorities, but also among businesses from different domains, including maritime safety, coastal and marine environment, marine resources and weather forecasting.

Copernicus services for security applications also offer maritime surveillance, thereby supporting a better understanding and improved monitoring of activities at sea within a wide range of operational functions such as maritime safety and security, fisheries control, customs, law enforcement, marine environment pollution monitoring, and others.

A final example of the exploitation of synergies between EGNSS and Copernicus for maritime surveillance and search and rescue is the SARA project, where a tethered drone installed on a vessel is used to locate seafarers and passengers in distress after a wreck.

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Updated: Jun 08, 2020