Maritime Situational Awareness and its Development Possibilities in the Republic of Estonia


  • Sven Sargma



maritime surveillance, seapower, security, safety, command and control, case study


The article covers the possibilities for improving maritime situational awareness in the Republic of Estonia and is based on the author’s Master’s thesis “Maritime situational awareness and its development possibilities based on the example of authorities engaged in maritime surveillance”, which was defended in the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences in June 2018. The thesis was awarded the scholarship for defence-related Master’s theses by the Estonian Ministry of Defence in December 2017. The research was designed within the framework of case study research strategy as an embedded single case design case study. A query, document analysis and semi-structured interviews were used as methods for data collection to achieve the research objectives. The method of analysis used was qualitative content analysis and it was conducted using the qualitative data analysis software NVivo 11 Pro. First, the theoretical chapter explains the incentives for forming maritime situational awareness, the historical-theoretical development of the respective field and its role within the Estonian Maritime Defence Model. The second, empirical chapter, charts the organizational-institutional aspects which inhibit the improvement of maritime situational awareness in the Republic of Estonia. According to the first chapter, the necessity for a coastal state to develop maritime situational awareness comes from the need and obligation to enforce sovereignty over its maritime domain. To accomplish this goal, the opaqueness covering the maritime domain must be reduced by combining different sources of maritime situational awareness. A coastal state must have the capability to: gather information from all possible, relevant sources; to analyze the gathered information; and to process it into a suitable form and distribute it to the decision makers. To be more successful in maritime activities than possible adversaries, the information for decision-making and the situational awareness must be of excellent quality and at the same time defended against hostile influences across the Maritime Defence Model. The conclusions described in the first chapter were used for designing the empirical research. In the second chapter, the directions for improving the maritime situational awareness in the Republic of Estonia were determined based on the analysis of query results, strategy documents and expert interviews. These directions where: improvement of gathering and distribution of information required for maritime situational awareness and better coordination of respective flow of information between agencies; the enhancement of information systems used for creating maritime situational awareness; improvement of policy and decision makers’ understanding of the respective field; better regulation of the field; increasing the survivability of the systems used for creating maritime situational awareness; and mapping the inter-agency needs for exchange of information used for achieving maritime situational awareness. The possibility of creating a separate organization for management of corresponding systems and infrastructure and the need for creating a joint maritime situational awareness center should be considered.


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