At the Sustainable Ocean Summit, the World Ocean Council (WOC) and ESA will collaborate to create better links between the seas and the space worlds and prepare the future – with a focus on “The Case of Autonomous Shipping”.

ESA will present its initiatives towards cross-fertilization between seas and space environment and related technologies as part of SOS 2019 and in strong alignment with the theme of “Investing in Ocean Futures”.

ESA is an intergovernmental agency with 22 Member States, tasked to provide for and to promote cooperation among those States in space research and technology and their space applications.

ESA programs have for decades undertaken activities relevant to the maritime world, e.g. from improving understanding of the oceans, to supporting protection measures or leveraging space data for Marine Spatial Planning. Following requests from several ESA Member States, these are now coordinated under the Blue Worlds Task Force (BWTF), grouping representatives of Member States and experts from ESA. The BWTF will map the challenges and priorities of the "maritime" sector with the proposed solutions, and the identification of capacity gaps and how to fill them via future programs.

On Friday, November 22, 2019, after a short talk in the frame of the session "The Digital Ocean, Big Ocean Data and the Ocean Cloud" to set the scene, a collaborative workshop takes place at 15:30-17:00. ESA experts from across Europe and from different program domains will showcase the latest status of these activities focusing on autonomous shipping.

These include information on Earth Observation programs serving the oceans, on processes used for the operations of satellites. These can show how to operate autonomous vehicles or provide applications coordinating various space assets, such as satellite-based positioning, better situational awareness using Earth observation data, and satcom services for improved onboard connectivity also by leveraging on the 5G capabilities that will be made available through satellites.

Much of the workshop is reserved to learn from the ocean business community about the challenges it is facing to prepare and build autonomy in navigation and to exchange with the experts present to identify where "space" could potentially contribute and explore common avenues of research between the seas and space worlds.

The Blue Worlds session will consist of:

Chair: Isabelle Duvaux-Béchon, Head of the Member States & Partnerships Office, ESA; Chair, ESA Blue Worlds Task Force


  • Stefano Ferretti, Earth Observations Directorate, ESA
  • Piera di Vito, Downstream Business Applications Department, ESA
  • Daniel Fischer, Directorate of Operations, ESA
  • Piero Messina, co-coordinator of the Blue Worlds Initiative, ESA
  • Maria-Grazia Abete, co-coordinator of the Blue Worlds Initiative, ESA

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