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Interview of João Ribeiro, Portugal's National Coordinator PDF Imprimer Envoyer


BMM Portuguese National Coordinator, João Fonseca Ribeiro, was interviewed about BMM's benefits for the European maritime surveillance and about the future of such a pilot project.


- From your point of view, what are the benefits of the BMM project for maritime surveillance at European level?

Far from being a simple technical problem to address, which might suggest a relatively easy case project, BlueMassMed (BMM) represents a transformational response to a far more complex challenge. In fact, this pilot project, in the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) roadmap, attempts to recognize and collaboratively address the partners’ community broader problems related to the exchange of information for the benefit of their integrated maritime surveillance systems. It impacts on operational culture awareness, on legal frameworks and their constraints, and on technical and informational architectures. Since its early stages that BMM has been a continuous partners’ trust building process and, inevitably, will influence their future, namely: in changing the traditional modus operandi; in identifying the main priorities and possible ways to address legal constraints; and in setting the base stone for the development of a federation of networks and services over which new building blocks can be applied.

By means of prototyping a regional/sea basin integrated maritime surveillance system, as a result from the work of all the partners engaged, BMM not only reveals the potential of a network enabling capability for the community, but also the likely enhancement on both inter-sectoral and cross-border capacity, once the community might be able to make a more efficient use of the information available through a distributed network, while adapting itself to the principles of subsidiarity in the operational  environment, and taking advantage on improvements to their  awareness, alert, decision making support, and collaborative planning and action.

From the easiest perspective – the technical one – it’s true that BMM provides just a little more than a common basic picture, together with a first attempt to integrate in-situ and Earth observation sensing services, while leaving a vast room for further developments. But it is also true that BMM engages an unprecedented number of partners, belonging to different sectors and Member States, with obvious implications on the operational and legal domains, requiring a comprehensive analysis to produce a commonly acceptable concept of operations together with a supporting legal manual. To my opinion, this combination resulted in a major achievement for the pilot project, which is: to generate, within the EU, an interconnected and highly motivated inter-sectoral and cross-border community focused in ensuring the security and safety of Mediterranean Sea and their Atlantic Approaches, by promoting deterrence to illegal activities, terrorism and piracy, and supporting decision makers in acting more effectively to respond to threats and emergencies at sea. This community, together with the technical, legal and operational products of this project, is considered a good candidate for an initial operational capability aiming the governance of regional (Mediterranean and its Atlantic approaches) maritime surveillance.

- How is BMM related to the environmental protection? What is the contribution of BMM to environmental issues?

The BMM prototype might encompass a future maritime pollution regional service, by means of accessing to GIS functionalities, dedicated Earth observation and prediction services, specific databases and other information which can all be used also by EMSA and the MIC (DG-Environment). It can provide alert for the monitoring of vessels carrying hazardous cargo or assist in tracing vessels in order to investigate effects of water ballast discharges, either on health safety or on introducing invasive species in the ecosystem, for example. It is simply a matter of enhancing the scope of the current achievements and enlarging the stakeholder’s community.

- How do you contemplate the future of BMM? What are the perspectives for the BMM project and for the Maritime Surveillance transformation in Europe?

To my opinion, the answer is two folded:

First, it’s relevant to mention that three different prototype solutions have been built over the existing pilot project period, all providing different accessibility levels to partners, based upon their demand for information, which testifies the robustness of common standards and services used. Therefore, on the future of BMM within the Integrated Maritime Surveillance, one can consider the opportunity to build over their existing outcomes, either for the development of future services, or to expand within the EU regions/sea basins and on cooperation with third countries. But such undertake will require the maintenance of the steering group and working groups, under the premises of CISE, ensuring the existence of a standardization body in order to address the implementation and the life cycle of a future operational surveillance system for the Region. If that will be the case, then will be highly recommendable not to disband this structure at the end of the project, but simply change their pace and adapt to the new governance objectives and requirements.

Secondly, perhaps more challenging too might be the streamlining of the Integrated Maritime Policy tools at the operational level, through the same development model applied to BMM. While maritime surveillance is focused on, but not limited to, the coast guard function and the enhancement of civil-military cooperation, other areas such as marine spatial planning and activity’s licensing, the control of shipping and fisheries, and the monitoring of the marine environment, biodiversity, and atmosphere embraces a wider set of the civilian maritime functions. And, in fact, all of them can benefit from integrated governance structures and exchange of information, either at cross-sectoral and cross-border levels. There are a myriad of indicators and data to be exchanged, measured, fused and analyzed to acquire the necessary knowledge and to reduce uncertainty, either from the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), such as the human activities impact assessment over the marine environment, and the social-economical assessment in the coastal areas; or from the marine spatial planning, integrated coastal zone management activities, and climate change adaptation planning activities, which must all to be addressed collaboratively; or even due to the requirement to access satellite Earth observation systems in connection with in-situ observation sites, allowing to increase the quality of meteorological, oceanographic and other marine services to be provided. While moving towards their sustainable development, societies must look comprehensively over its economic, social and environmental pillars, and acquire the necessary knowledge to enable effective ecosystem’s based approach decision making, including the implementation of precautionary measures, whenever and wherever deemed necessary, and also ensuring efficiency in minimizing constraints on the blue growth.

Someone once said to describe the transformation challenges that “it’s not about doing things better, it’s about doing better things”. That might well be the future challenge for an “Enhanced CISE”, and perhaps not too far to reach by means of the “Enhanced BMM”.


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