Maritime forum

Roadmap for European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)

Roadmap for European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)

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Note for the Attention of Integrated Maritime Policy Member States Expert Group

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1.          Introduction

1.1.        Aim of this roadmap

The aim of this roadmap is to show how European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) actions financed under Regulation 1255/2011 fit into an overall plan and how they relate to other ongoing national and EU initiatives

1.2.        Rationale

The marine economy is expanding. Wind power is leading the way. 10% of current installations are offshore and this proportion is growing. The European Wind Energy Association reckon that by 2020, 30% of new construction will be offshore and 60% by 2030. The exploration of marine biodiversity is opening opportunities for a thriving marine bio-economy; marine biotechnology and aquaculture in particular. Further offshore still, as commodity prices remain stubbornly high, seabed mining becomes more attractive. In fact operations to extract gold and copper at 1600 metres down in the Bismarck Sea off Papua New Guinea have already started.

Companies operating offshore not only need maps of water depth, marine sediments, ocean currents and wind strengths to plan their activities; but they need to assess their activity’s impact on biodiversity and the marine ecosystem in order to obtain a licence. So they need to know the whereabouts of sensitive habitats and the migration routes of wildlife.

It is frustrating that many of the needed data have been acquired but are often unobtainable or not compiled in suitable formats. They are held by hundreds of different institutions in the EU - hydrographic offices, geological surveys, local authorities, environmental agencies, research institutes, universities - and largely funded by the taxpayer. Finding out who holds the data is already a major challenge. Obtaining them can take weeks of negotiation. And putting them together to provide a complete picture can be a nightmare. For instance national geological surveys classify sediments according to the ratio of particulate matter to mud and to the grain size. However the thresholds may be different between countries. Therefore the same type of sediment might be classified as gravelly mud on one side of a border and sandy mud at the other. The maps do not join up.

This is not only an issue for private companies. Public authorities face the same difficulties when planning coastal protection works or assessing the state of the marine environment; particularly when information regarding conditions in neighbouring countries is required. Under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive countries are required to regionally coordinate their environmental targets for good environmental status. Even where they do collect data for a specific project, many of them do not know what to do with them afterwards to ensure they can be used again.

Researchers face the same challenges. It takes time and effort to find and process observations made by other researchers in order to put their own measurements into context.

The aim of EMODnet is therefore to resolve these problems and create the foundations for a sustainable marine data infrastructure by 2020 that meets the needs of all these stakeholders.

1.3.        Background

EMODnet is part of the wider "Marine Knowledge 2020" agenda adopted by the European Commission in September 2010[1] and welcomed by the Council in December 2011[2].. Marine Knowledge 2020 provided common objectives for all EU marine data initiatives:

  1. reducing operational costs and delays for those who use marine data and therefore:
    1. helping private industry compete in the global economy and meet the challenge of sustainability;
    2. improving the quality of public decision-making at all levels;
    3. strengthening marine scientific research
  2. increasing competition and innovation amongst users and re-users of marine data by providing wider access to quality-checked, rapidly available coherent marine data;
  3. reducing uncertainty in knowledge of the oceans and the seas and so providing a sounder basis for managing future changes

An impact assessment[3] determined that achieving the first objective would be worth €300 million a year to the European economy and the second one from €60 to €200 million a year. The benefits of reduced uncertainty are harder to quantify but it has been estimated that a 25% reduction in uncertainty in future sea-level rise would save European authorities responsible for coastal protection about €100 million a year.

The initiative fits with the aim of the EU's digital agenda[4] which is to deliver sustainable economic and social benefits from a digital single market based on fast and ultra fast internet and interoperable applications. The "Marine Knowledge 2020" Communication identified a number of actions that would achieve these objectives. Those at an EU level included the Data Collection Framework in fisheries and the Global Monitoring for Monitoring and Security (GMES) programme[5].

The European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) is the contribution of the integrated maritime policy. A prototype ur-EMODnet was set up supported with €6,450,000 from the integrated maritime policy preparatory actions. A second prototype of EMODnet will be established with €19,200,000 from the Regulation (EU) 1255/2011 supporting the maritime policy[6] until the new multiannual financial framework comes into force in 2014.

2.          Basic Principles of marine Knowledge 2020

The basic principles underlying the architecture of "Marine Knowledge 2020" are that marine data should be collected once and used many times. This is consistent with the INSPIRE Directive[7].”Marine Knowledge 2020” is explicitly mentioned as reinforcing the Public Sector Information Directive in the Commission proposal for its revision[8]. Furthermore the data should be available at marginal cost which means that data distributed through the internet should be free of charge.

In understanding this it is helpful to distinguish between data, metadata and data products.

  1. data are observations generally collected at a specific point[9] in space and time – e.g. temperature of water, concentration of pollutants, echo-sounding, ge9ological or biological samples
  2. metadata are descriptions of the data – for instance the time and place of measurement, the accuracy, the owner of the data
  3. data products are developed from the data. For instance this could be a map of seabed sediment types derived from multiple individual samples and interpreted into a full coverage map.

This distinction is important because it drives the architecture of EMODnet and also other initiatives such as the marine core service of GMES. This architecture is built on the following principles:

  1. data and metadata are best maintained as near to the source as possible which mostly means national data centres;
  2. all data repositories or information systems must use the same metadata so that, for instance, all the temperature measurements within a certain region and certain time window can be gathered in a single step;
  3. data products are constructed from data. It is often efficient to assemble these at a sea-basin level n order to avoid discontinuities at national boundaries.

The approach in the particular case of EMODnet is to support seven "thematic assembly groups". Each group is a consortium of experts in a particular field. For instance the thematic assembly group for geology is largely made up of representatives of national geological surveys. Their task is to:

  1. ensure that participating institutions and national data centres use the same standards and metadata;
  2. facilitate access to all data and metadata through a single common web page or "portal".
  3. develop data products for whole sea-basins and provide access to them through the same portal. Users should be able to trace back the original data used in constructing the data products.
3.          What has been done in the Preparatory Actions

Under the preparatory actions for EMODnet, six thematic assembly groups were set up:

  1. hydrography – bathymetry (water depth), coastlines, underwater features (wrecks etc)
  2. geology – sediments, strata, coastal erosion, geological hazards
  3. physics – temperature, waves, currents, sea-level, light penetration
  4. chemistry – concentrations of chemicals in water, sediments and biota
  5. biology – abundance of living species
  6. physical habitats – habitat classification based on physical parameters (water depth, light penetration, sediments etc)

Fifty three organisations were involved as partners in the six consortia. Most of these were either data centres responsible for managing national oceanographic data, national geological surveys or marine research institutes. Two small companies provided expertise in software for sharing and distributing data (see annex for complete list).

Others contributed through subcontracts. The preparatory action funding of €6,450,000 was not sufficient to cover data from all European seas so each one covers a subset of the sea-basins. Each one includes the North Sea and at least two other basins. All European seas subject to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive[10], except Macaronesia[11], are included in at least one portal. The objective of including the North Sea in all portals was to allow an assessment of the ability to integrate data from different thematic groups.

The programme has been monitored by an independent Marine Observation and Data Expert Group. An interim evaluation will shortly be issued that confirms the basic soundness of the approach and provides a number of recommendations based on lessons learned that feed into the next phase of the project.

4.          Regulation (EU) No 1255/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2011 establishing a Programme to support the further development of an Integrated Maritime Policy

The next phase of EMODnet is being funded through Regulation 1255/2011 which is intended to support the maritime policy until a proposed European Maritime and Fisheries Fund takes over in the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework.

The next phase of the project will focus on:

  1. providing access to more data, metadata and data products by completing the work started in the first phase in order to deliver a complete coverage of European waters by the end of 2014
  2. starting a process to identify the fitness for purpose of the present observation network and develop evidence-based priorities for further work in collecting, assembling and processing marine data
  3. evaluating sustainable and cost-effective mechanisms for the EMODnet infrastructure

4.1.        Improving Coverage

Calls for tender will be issued for thematic assembly groups to complete coverage of European waters by the end of 2014. In addition to the increased coverage there will be further enhancements to the Network. These include:

  1. higher resolution (one eighth of a minute of longitude and latitude for the digital terrain model instead of one quarter, 1:250,000 for the marine sediments rather than 1:1,000,000);
  2. an extra thematic group to assemble data on human activity (gravel extraction, aquaculture, shipping etc). This is of particular interest for marine spatial planning;
  3. more user-friendly, intuitive interfaces;
  4. expanded range of chemical concentrations and other parameters in response to needs of Marine Strategy Framework Directive assessments and global climate change analysis.
  5. better tools for estimating biological species abundance from surveys
  6. special focus on providing access to near-coast information

A budget of €16,350,000 has been set aside for this action.

4.2.        Fitness for purpose

In moving from a paradigm where data are collected for a specific purpose to one where observations serve a number of uses, there is a need to ensure that the most efficient observation infrastructure is put in place to meet the needs of a heterogeneous user community. This is most effectively done at a sea-basin level. "Marine Knowledge 2020" proposed setting up "sea-basin checkpoints" to do this.

Accordingly two projects will be set up to see how these would work. The cost-effectiveness, reliability and utility of the existing monitoring infrastructure will be assessed by developing products based on these data and determining whether the products are meeting the needs of industry and public authorities.

A budget of €1,800,000 has been set aside for this action.

4.3.        evaluating sustainable and cost-effective mechanisms for the EMODnet infrastructure

A budget of €450,000 has been set aside for evaluation of the current practice and assessment of options for moving forward.

5.          How EMODnet fits with other initiatives.

adaptation to climate change

Whilst we know that the climate is changing, knowledge gaps still impede understanding of the impacts of climate change and prevent a sound information basis for projections, investments and planning policies.

A more effective marine monitoring system that further reduces uncertainty is an effective contribution of the EU to help Member States to adapt to climate change. Furthering the understanding of adaptation, improving and widening the knowledge base and enhancing access to adaptation related information will be part of the Commission's 2013 Adaptation Strategy..

And it does not only reduce uncertainties in our coasts and seas. Ocean circulation is a primary driver for the terrestrial climate so better monitoring can contribute to better planning in land-based sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure and energy.

blue growth

The "blue growth" study being implemented through the integrated maritime policy preparatory actions is analysing the growth potential of a number of marine and maritime sectors. The competiveness of many of these activities – deep sea mining, offshore energy, aquaculture – will be enhanced if they are able to reduce the cost of obtaining and processing data and if the present and future behaviour of the sea is less uncertain.

Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE)

The Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE for the surveillance of the EU maritime domain aims to enhance the efficiency and cost effectiveness of surveilling the EU maritime domain by enabling appropriate, lawful, secure and efficient data sharing across sectors and borders on a need to know and responsibility to share basis. It should involve over 400 public authorities belonging to 7 user communities (Maritime safety and security, Fisheries Control, Border Control, Law Enforcement, Marine Environment, Customs and Defence) throughout Member States and relevant EU institutions and Agencies.

While the scope of CISE is about inter-connecting maritime surveillance systems across sectors (thus including environmental ones), it should be aligned as far as possible to the INSPIRE implementing rules for data and metadata related to environment. CISE could thus benefit and profit from a close interoperability with EMODnet. In return, through CISE, data assembled through EMODnet would be avaliable to all relevant maritime authorities throughout the EU.

Data Collection Framework in fisheries

In order to avoid double-funding, EMODnet does not assemble fisheries data. However efforts will be made through the Data Collection Framework to make the data from the two initiatives interoperable and to move towards an architecture that makes it easier to access and use fisheries data

EU Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research

Under the EU Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research, a process has started to identify gaps and needs in marine observation infrastructures and promote their sustained development. The research framework programme (FP) has supported the initial development of ESFRI[12] infrastructure projects with a marine component, such as EURO-ARGO, EMSO, EMBRC, ICOS and SIOS[13], which will provide a range of in-situ marine data. The FP has also financed the SeaDataNet infrastructure project, which has developed harmonised standards for marine data and metadata, used for EMODNet.

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) is the European Programme for the establishment of a European capacity for Earth Observation. Its primary objective is to provide information services which give access to accurate data and information in the field of the environment and security, tailored to the needs of users. GMES should support support biodiversity, ecosystem management, climate change mitigation and adaptation. It comprises a service component covering atmosphere, land and marine monitoring as well as emergency management, climate change monitoring and security, supported by a space component and an in-situ component. The marine monitoring service (delivered by MyOcean today) provides information on the state of physical ocean (e.g. sea surface temperature, currents, salinity, sea level, ice monitoring, bio-/geochemistry) and marine ecosystems for the global ocean and the European regional areas as observations and forecasts. The application areas of the services include maritime safety, the marine environment and coastal regions, marine resources as well as seasonal ocean forecasting and climate monitoring.

The link with EMODnet is through EMODnet's thematic assembly group on physical parameters which has a budget of €1 million. The aim is to provide easier access to data from real-time in-situ measurements used by GMES as well as archived data that is held largely by national oceanographic centres.

The thematic assembly group on physics does not then only deal with the near-coast measurements that are not used by GMES but also contributes to a larger and more structured access to in-situ measurements that contribute to the calibration and validation of GMES model forecasts.


To ensure that the spatial data infrastructures of the Member States are compatible and usable in a Community and transboundary context, the INSPIRE Directive[14] requires that common implementing rules be adopted in a number of specific areas (metadata, data specifications, network services, data and service sharing, monitoring and reporting).

EMODnet respects INSPIRE implementing rules for data and metadata. Indeed the thematic assembly groups are contributing towards the definition of these rules.

Marine Strategy Framework Directive and WISE marine

EMODnet is being designed to deliver the data and data products that underpin indicators used to assess the state of the marine environment and pressures on it, thus supporting the future implementation of the Directive.

On 8-9 December 2011 in Warsaw an informal meeting of Water and Marine Directors of the European Union, Candidate and EFTA Countries

Approved the process proposed by WG DIKE[15] for further technical development on the data sets associated with the Initial Assessment, with a view to making selected priority data sets accessible in agreed formats by January 2013, working towards INSPIRE compliance where possible. Acknowledge that such technical work is a longer term process and recommend that WG DIKE works with EMODnet, INSPIRE and other relevant processes to ensure effective and efficient access to relevant marine data in support of EEA and EC assessments and MSFD implementation.

Member States reporting obligations to the Commission are done through the WISE (water information system for Europe) which also has a marine component. Part of the infrastructure for the marine component is expected to be based on an EMODnet architecture whereby indicators are pulled from Member States by the Commission when required rather than pushed. This will greatly increase the MS interest in the EMODnet, because they will increasingly be making their data available by implementing standards set by EMODnet.

maritime spatial planning

Maritime spatial planning requires sound data on the state of the sea and human activity on it. It is impossible to incorporate activities that cross national borders such as shipping lanes or cable-laying into spatial plans if each Member State provides data on the state of the sea and activities upon the sea using different standards. The new thematic assembly group on human activity has been specifically set up to help national and regional authorities develop spatial planning.

national efforts such as COSYNA, CORIOLIS, SOCIB, MEDIN

The EMODnet architecture is based on pulling data and metadata from national and other databases.

Efforts to improve the accessibility, interoperability, robustness and sustainability of national data management system therefore strengthen EMODnet.

Public Sector Information Directive

The Commission's proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2003/98/EC on re-use of public sector information[16] points out that

In September 2010 the Commission issued a Communication to the European Parliament and to the Council — Marine Knowledge 2020 — aimed at unlocking the potential of Europe’s marine knowledge. Its three-pronged approach, seeking to make the use of marine data easier and less costly, to foster competitiveness of marine data users and to enhance understanding of Europe’s seas and oceans, is consistent with and reinforces the Commission’s policy towards the re-use of PSI.

The Commission Services are working closely together to bring all these initiatives together under the umbrella of Marine Knowledge 2020.

6.          Consultation Paper

The Commission's proposal for a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund[17] includes provision for a continuation of EMODnet in the 2014-2020 financial framework. Following the impact assessment, a provisional budget of €30 million a year has been allocated to this of which two thirds is for further data assembly and one third for new observations where these would provide real EU added-value.

However we need to work out how to move from a project-based initiative driven by the Commission to a sustainable structure that is driven by the needs and priorities of stakeholders from industry, public authorities and the research community.

We also need to show that the different EU initiatives are connected to each other and create a coherent package. The aim is to deliver a Consultation Paper before summer 2012 that summarises the background, the achievements so far of all EU initiatives on marine data and that poses questions as to the best way to move forward.

7.          Consultation and Impact Assessment

The consultation that follows the Consultation Paper would contribute towards the formulation of options that would be assessed in an impact assessment that could report by early 2013.

Depending on the results of the analysis, a legislative proposal could be prepared for early 2013.

8.          Final remarks

This roadmap explains how the current actions planned under Regulation 1255/2011 fit into a broader process. Comments from the Integrated Maritime Policy Member States Expert Group and suggestions for issues to be raised in the Consultation Paper are welcomed.

Bernhard Friess

Annex Organisations participating in Preparatory Action




Flanders Marine Institute/Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee(VLIZ)

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

University of Liege - GeoHydrodynamics and Environment Research (ULG)ja Belgium;


Institute of Oceanology Bulgarian Academy of Science (IO-BAS)


University of Cyprus-Oceanography Centre (OC)


Danish Environmental and Planning Agency (BLST)

Danish Hydraulic Institute (DHI)

Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland

National Environmental Research Institute (NERI-MAR)


Geological Survey of Estonia


Geological Survey of Finland,


Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières

Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS)

Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer)

Service Hydrographique et Oceanographique de la Marine (SHOM).


Iv. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU-DNA)


Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)

Bundesamt für Seeschiffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH-DOD),

Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources

University of Bremen (UniHB)


Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR)


International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)



Geological Survey of Ireland

Marine Institute (MI)


ETT srl

Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofísica Sperimentale (OGS)

Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA)


Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Agency


Lithuania institute of Geology and Geography




Mariene Informatie Service 'MARIS' BV

NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)

Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences/Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KN A W); Netherlands Institute of Ecology; Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology (NIOO-CEME)


Geological Survey of Norway

Norwegian Marine Data Centre - Institute of Marine Research (IMR),


Polish Geological Institute


National Institute for Marine Research and Development "Grigore Antipa" (NIMRD)

Russian Federation

All Russian Research Institute of Hydro-meteorological Information - WDC B (RIHMI-WDC)

P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology Russian Academy of Science (SIO-RAS)


Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO)


Geological Survey of Sweden

Sveriges Meteorologiska Och Hydrologiska Institut (SMHI)

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency


Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (IBSS NASU

Marine Hydro-physical Institute (MHI)

United Kingdom

Joint Nature Conservation Committee Support Co

NERC British Océanographie Data Centre, Liverpool (BODC)

NERC, British Geological Survey, Edinburgh (BGS)

NERC, National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOC)

United States

Rutgers University; Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences (IMCS)


[1]       COM(2010) 461

[2]       3139th ENVIRONMENT Council meeting Brussels, 19 December 2011

[3] European Marine Observation And Data Network Impact Assessment Commission Staff Working Document  Brussels, 8.9.2010  SEC(2010) 998 final

[4]       A Digital Agenda for Europe COM(2010) 245 final/2

[5]       Regulation (EU) No 911/2010 of the European Parliament and of the council of 22 September 2010 on the European Earth monitoring programme (GMES) and its initial operations (2011 to 2013)

[6]        Regulation (EU) No 1255/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2011 establishing a Programme to support the further development of an Integrated Maritime Policy

[7]       Directive 2007/2/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2007 establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE)

[8]       Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/98/EC on re-use of public sector information COM(2011) 877 final

[9]               Or a set of points

[10]     2008/56/EC of  of 17 June 2008

[11]     Macaronesia consists of five archipelagos,: Azores (Portugal), Canary Islands (Spain), Cape Verde (Cape Verde), Madeira, including Porto Santo Island and the Desertas Islands (Portugal), Savage Islands (Portugal), administratively part of the Madeira Autonomous Region

[12]    European Strategic Forum for Research Infrastructures -

[13]    EMSO: European Multidisciplinary Seafloor Observatory, EMBRC: European Marine Biological Resource Centre, ICOS: Integrated Carbon Observation System, SIOS: Svallbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System

[14]     Directive 2007/2/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2007 establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE)

[15]     working group on data information and knowledge exchange

[16]     COM(2011) 877

[17]     Proposal for a Regulation Of The European Parliament And Of The Council on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Brussels, 2.12.2011, COM(2011) 804 final

Last updated date: : 
Saturday, 3 March, 2012 - 18:29