Pic: Frontex

A satellite earth observation image ordered by National Space Centre’s Maritime Surveillance Centre in Cork has played a critical role in saving 38 lives by enabling the location of a ship lost in the West Mediterranean due to an engine failure on 2014-09.

The satellite image taken on 16.09.2014 evening was used to detect a small boat at high seas with migrants in distress.   The image was processed as part of a pre-planned SAGRES test exercise involving a Spanish patrolling vessel detecting a small object at sea, in order to test processing of Earth Observation images with cooperative reporting streams.  When the distress call was received, the Spanish vessel joined the search mission, and SAGRES and Frontex used the ordered image to support the mission.

SAGRES is a 17 organisation EU Funded FP7 project which supports the pre-operational test and deployment of the high-time critical, intelligence driven maritime surveillance component via the EUROSUR network. National Space Centre ordered the image in their role as Core Data Provider to the SAGRES project.

Among those rescued include eight women and three children, and 27 men who are in apparent good health and were moved to the Port of Almeria, where medical and humanitarian assistance was provided by  a Red Cross Emergency team.

The search operation, which began at 14:00 am Tuesday, involved both air and maritime means of Frontex, including Helimer Maritime Rescue 202 helicopter and patrol vessels of the Navy.

The contribution of SAGRES was essential to the life-saving mission, as the EO-based ship detection permitted reducing the initial huge area and this eased the search mission. This success case shows how EO technology can support high time critical maritime surveillance and how this technology can be used to save lives at sea. 

See Sagres website for more information.