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.
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.
The EU's 36 commitments are described in detail below.
Maritime security is the basis for global trade and prosperity, but it is under threat - from natural disasters to piracy, trafficking and armed conflict. To make our oceans safer and more secure the European Union announced:
€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.
EUR 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.
EUR1 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.