The European Defence Agency (EDA) and the EU Satellite Centre (SatCen) have signed a bilateral agreement on 14 March 2024 to enhance the protective layer of maritime surveillance data.

Specifically, the two agencies will build on their co-operation in developing the MANSUR maritime data exchange system, now in its third generation (III).

Launched in 2005 as a network for sharing open-source maritime information, MARSUR has since matured into a multi-faceted information exchange platform.

The multinational initiative resulting from this effort now encompasses 22 European navies. Out of this pool, under the EDA framework, 16 EU navies are developing a capability for the automatic exchange of maritime surveillance information and decision-making support. 

MARSUR’s wide scope of services allow for information exchange, co-ordination and support to decision-making, aiming to improve the common ‘Recognised Maritime Picture’. The network plays an important role as a defence layer of the EU framework for exchanging information and maritime situation awareness, known as the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE). 

Now, the MANSUR III project is upgrading its technology and capabilities, which will soon include the exchange of classified information. The recent bilateral agreement will provide the operational basis for the exchange of relevant data between SatCen and the MARSUR community through a secure network. 

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SatCen has aligned its efforts with EDA to define requirements and support maritime situational awareness with satellite data and analysis. SatCen joined the initiative in 2017, and in May 2021 signed the MARSUR III project arrangement for 2021-2026 and the way ahead. 

MARSUR III will now benefit from SatCen’s expertise, particularly in terms of governance, as it takes a role as permanent chair of the Technical Advisory Board, in training of operators and technicians, exchanging information and products, and connecting to CISE with its bridging node. 

SatCen will in turn connect its resources to the information held by European navies. SatCen will also welcome two MARSUR maritime surveillance experts, funded by the MARSUR community.

During the signing ceremony, Commander Joachim Weidmann, Chairperson of the MARSUR Management Group and representing the participating nations, said: “The bilateral agreement between EDA and SatCen is a milestone, and it is important that both organisations show the willingness to succeed in ensuring that relevant operational maritime information is shared in the required time.”