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ESA is leveraging space technology to advance sustainable, innovative services across the maritime sector


The maritime sector plays a fundamental role in life on Earth, accounting for 95% of global trade, a vital source of food and energy and home to multiple delicate ecosystems. Protecting this important resource is a high priority. 

The sector faces many environmental challenges, leading to a push for greener practices and technologies. Geopolitical issues such as illegal migration, border security, and piracy also demand attention. To tackle these challenges, the industry increasingly relies on space-based services for timely and cost-effective solutions.


ESA is focusing on these four main areas to support the maritime sector: 

Maritime Safety & Security
Maritime Sustainability
Blue Economy



How can space help our oceans?




Satellite Communications (Satcom)

At open sea, satcom provides a vital and irreplaceable link between offshore activities and the rest of the world. Satellite connectivity is central to:

  • maritime decarbonisation
  • autonomous shipping
  • search and rescue 
Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and Automatic Identification System (AIS)

Ships of all sizes are legally required to have a GNSS receiver or a terrestrial radio navigation system. The maritime sector was an early adopter of GNSS for navigational purposes, and with the advent of AIS, GNSS information has been exploited in many ways including:

  • deriving sea state 
  • implementation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)
Satellite Earth Observation (SatEO)

SatEO is routinely used in the maritime sector for a range of purposes including:

  • to improve situational awareness on maritime operations (particularly those in changing and perilous areas such as the arctic) 
  • to assess the environmental impact of ports
  • to support spatial marine planning, coastal management and verification of AIS messages
  • to detect dark vessels
  • to validate insurance claims
  • to detect oil spills
  • to prevent smuggling to monitor IUU

Socio-economic Impact

ESA BASS has been supporting projects with a maritime focus since 2010. These projects cover a wide range of topics and bring benefits for shipping, marine life and the environment. 


Maritime Initiatives



Maritime Sustainability Task Force

The Maritime Sustainability Task Force was established together with partners from across the sector. Its focus is on enhancing the environmental sustainability of the maritime sector and comprises maritime authorities, industry associations, shipyards, ports, ship owners and more. 

Find out more about the Maritime Sustainability Task Force

Work with us

If you would like to find out more about funding opportunities for the maritime sector or have an idea you would like to share please contact us on and request a call. You can also sign up for our Maritime updates below:

News and Events

Towards a Space-Powered Economy - Space Applications for Social, Environmental and Economic Sustainability

This one-day event will examine the needs and priorities of the port sector around the themes of decarbonisation and sustainability.

The European Space Agency (ESA) officially launched its Maritime Sustainability Task Force at EUROMARITIME in Marseille last week, where…

Join us in the Netherlands for the ''Space for Blue'' event on 13 February 2024

Awake.AI Marketplace, a virtual multi-sided marketplace, is set to transform the way port services are traded. With this innovative…

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) invite experts within your organisation to attend a one-…

Space for every industry

The relationship between space assets and businesses has already begun to transform a range of industries, such as: