SAMBA - SAtellite Monitoring of ship emissions in the Baltic seA

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The objective of SAMBA is to establish feasibility of space-based services for maritime emission monitoring. SAMBA will achieve its objective by combining AIS/GPS-based maritime emissions with remote sensing-based atmospheric pollution monitoring into maritime emission compliance monitoring and information provision service. The primary users will be national and regional authorities in countries surrounding the European coastal seas, and users receiving added value to existing air quality forecasting services.

The objective is to assess the technical feasibility as well as the economic viability of an integrated service that can be used by national maritime and port authorities to monitor air pollution from maritime emissions and take relevant actions. The concept is based on the combination of EO data and ship information used on a stand-alone basis providing real time information, or as inputs to pollution generation / propagation models providing pollution forecasts. Satellite telecommunication can fill the gaps identified in the transmission of relevant information where no other communications infrastructure is present, particularly on open seas.

Users and their needs

The direct users of the service are identified as the national or regional authorities responsible for air quality now (ministries of transport and environment), or for the compliance monitoring of maritime emissions in the future.

The other direct users are likely to be international institutions, such as WMO (for monitoring global air quality trends), IMO (for monitoring implementation of its conventions), European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and port authorities. Additional users are found through the integration of the SAMBA service with existing local air quality services.As future users, the private sector (port operators, consultancies) will be included in the study.

When future regulations for maritime emissions enter into force, there will be a need for a level playing field for the industry. Shipping companies ask to follow the same rules and to have an equal ability to compete.

The authorities are interested in information that will help them monitor the compliance, linking it to existing compliance monitoring regimes. The environmental authorities are interested in reliable statistics of maritime emissions both offshore and in ports. Ship-owners see possibilities in improving their operations and cutting costs through equivalence measures, which need reliable information.

Service/ system concept

The SAMBA service will integrate space assets with emission and air quality model into a space-based, gridded maritime emission service. There is a strong need for such information, but as yet no existing service. Based on preliminary assessment, at least three types of service lines are foreseen.

  • Aggregated emissions over large sea areas
  • Air quality forecasts for port cities
  • Vessel specific emission statistics

Space Added Value

The services will build on the satnav (GPS) signal received by on-board AIS equipment on ships, the transmission of the AIS information from ships through an AIS satellite or ground VHF network, and the conversion of AIS-based navigational and other information from all ships in a sea area into an emission grid. In the services, the satellite navigation-based emission grid will be merged/compared with earth observation-derived NO2 concentrations from the OMI and similar instruments. The applicability of SO2-OMI and other instruments on the ship emission monitoring will be analysed.

Product Benefits

There is currently no compliance monitoring service for maritime emissions. Existing pilot techniques are based on contact or close proximity measurements, and therefore do not provide information about the aggregated amount of emissions. The SAMBA service is currently the only planned offering for large-scale monitoring of maritime exhaust emissions, and therefore adds value already at feasible performance and reasonable warranty.

In addition to enforcement purposes, SAMBA offers potential for innovative value-adding services for regional authorities, consultancies and the shipping industry in search of cost-efficient means to respond to the rising costs of compliance. Different types of statistics serve these needs. The key criterion satisfied by the SAMBA service is verifiability against ship-level information.

Added value for local and regional air quality forecasts is created by the inclusion of accurate and time-dependent maritime emissions provided by the SAMBA service. The added value is seen by the users of the downstream service as an increase in the forecast accuracy, i.e. an increased performance and therefore increased utility through e.g. health advisories. The feasibility study will create an end-to-end proof-of-concept for the inclusion of maritime emissions into air quality services, and evaluate the utility of it.

Product Features

SAMBA combines satellite and terrestrial AIS reception with earth observation technologies to deliver services to public sector users (authorities) and a value adding service network. The combination of earth observation with accurate emission estimates is expected to pave way for a level playing field for the maritime industry, which is under heavy pressure from new emission regulations.  Shipping companies ask to follow the same rules and to have an equal ability to compete in the market. Space-based methods in innovative combination with other information sources can address the needs of industry, authorities and value adding service providers in a cost-effective way.

Based on preliminary assessment, SAMBA will provide at least three types of service lines:

  • aggregated emissions over large sea areas
  • air quality forecasts for port cities
  • vessel specific emission statistics

Fig.1: Samba Architecture Overview


Key Issues

Due to more stringent international requirements for reducing nitrogen and sulphur oxide emissions, shipping industry in the Baltic and North Seas will be faced during the next five years with substantially increased fuel expenses, logistics costs and the needs for large investment into low-emission technology and infrastructure. The impact of the emission reduction requirements could amount to almost 50% of freight costs. At the same time, economies in the SECA areas are suffering from the impacts of the global recession. There is therefore a large incentive for non-compliance with the new regulations, unless a robust, international compliance monitoring system is in place.


Current Status

The project was finalised in January 2014.

Status Date

Updated: 07 April 2014 - Created: 15 February 2014