Four days and four cases that pose a threat to maritime security – in several scenarios that took place between 5 and 9 September 2016, the EMSec joint project (Echtzeitdienste für die Maritime Sicherheit - Security; Real-Time Services for Maritime Security) was able to successfully demonstrate research findings from the last three years. In order to gain optimal and real-time insight into the hijacking of a ferry or even the pollution of waters with harmful substances, scientists and their industry partners combined several data sources: satellite images from space, airborne camera pictures, and also shipping signals, all of which were entered into a system that combined and presented them in real time. "Such systems will enable future situation centres to work very effectively and with several sources at the same time," stated Dennis Göge, Head of Programme Coordination for Security Research at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), which has leadership of the EMSec project. "This will allow us to act quickly because we will have sufficient information about the situation early on."
Research into user requirements
It was necessary to work with different partners, each of whom could contribute their expertise. In addition to DLR, participants in the project included ATLAS Elektronik, Airbus, and the University of Rostock; the project also involved users such as the German Federal Maritime Police, the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS), and the waterway police in coastal areas. "For us, it was important that the EMSec joint project was based on targeted research into what is needed for maritime security," stated DLR's Stephan Brusch, EMSec Project Leader. The combination of information acquired from space, air and land enabled the consortium to gather data in an unprecedented way in the civilian maritime security sector.
From information to facing the situation
Sharing knowledge was important for this: "In the beginning, DLR wanted to understand how a police organisation worked, how responsibilities at sea are managed, and how dangerous situations can be dealt with," said Olaf Juhl, Superintendent at the Federal Maritime Police headquarters. "It also became quickly apparent that the technical capabilities of the German Federal Police as well as that of other partners in the maritime security centre could be extended, in particular with regard to obtaining information about the situation, an area for which there was initially few useful answers." The solution proposed by EMSec shows, for the first time, a closed system ranging from information acquisition to dealing with the situation. An operator based in a control centre will be able to use this to react promptly to maritime situations, and together with partners, will be able to draw on the support of external facilities. "I hope that this kind of usage will be looked into further and that the ideas and solutions that have come to light during the course of the last three years lead to a usable system."
The partners, such as DGzRS, have supported the aims and tasks of the EMSec project: "The attempt to work with a sensor network can contribute significantly in terms of support to the efficiency of large maritime search and rescue forces," said Hans Hinners Stommel, Head of the DGzRS. "In the area of imaging techniques alone, we are seeing huge advantages in the detection of people lost at sea and in rescue devices." These kinds of airborne systems could help to locate ships much faster in some circumstances."
The skills acquired during the EMSec joint project can be demonstrated by the partners in a series of scenarios: once a ship has been identified as having deviated from its course when performing a simple evasive manoeuvre, the vessel can be found and identified as having been hijacked. Even the detection of people who have gone overboard, or observing pollution of hazardous substances in the water, are important issues in maritime security for the participants. "We have reached a point within the EMSec project whereby we have been able to build upon the existing findings and apply them," stressed Dennis Göge, the DLR Programme Coordinator.
About the EMSec project
The EMSec (Echtzeitdienste für die Maritime Sicherheit – Security; Real Time Service for Maritime Security) project under the leadership of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Programme Coordination for Security Research is supported by the 'Research for Civil Protection' programme run by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). Participants from DLR include: the Institute for Flight Guidance, the German Remote Sensing Data Center, the Remote Sensing Technology Institute, the Institute of Space Systems, the Institute of Communications and Navigation and the Institute of Optical Sensor Systems. DLR's partners are: ATLAS ELEKTRONIK GmbH, Airbus DS GmbH, Airbus DS Airborne Solutions GmbH, the Civil Protection Organisation, the University of Rostock and other associated partners. Users of the project are: the German Federal Maritime Police, the Waterways Police in the coastal regions, the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service and the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies in an advisory function.