On 30 and 31 January, SMi Group hosted the third annual Maritime Reconnaissance and Surveillance Technology conference. The event was held in Rome and the organisers had invited me to provide some insights into some of the challenges faced by navies in sub-Saharan Africa.
Surveillance and reconnaissance are key elements for maritime situational awareness (MSA). In combination with additional intelligence, MSA is the foundation for the more comprehensive maritime domain awareness (MDA). While MDA has been a buzzword for several years, it is an important concept. In short, it means that governments should know about activities that take place in territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone.
Better maritime reconnaissance
Navies and other agencies are constantly trying to improve their maritime reconnaissance and surveillance capacities. Even space-based technology has become widely accessible in recent years, allowing for more accurate monitoring of fishing grounds, shipping routes, environmental issues and of course smuggling and other illegal activities.
However, many nations – including most in sub-Saharan Africa – are not able to launch and run dedicated systems. They need to focus on conventional platforms first but may combine them with commercial off-the-shelf solutions in specific areas. At the same time, regional cooperation is key since MDA requires constant sharing of data with neighbouring countries.
During the two-day conference, several speakers gave very interesting presentations. Some examples were representatives from the Italian navy and the Italian coastguard, staff officers from several Nato countries as well as industry representatives, providing insights into the latest developments on the technology side. My own presentation was an interesting contrast to the sophisticated MDA systems that are currently being used or under development by many countries in Europe, North America or the Middle East.