A €1.35 million project will develop a network of smart buoys which should revolutionize the Estonian state's capabilities in monitoring and responding to activity at sea, including incidents of pollution.
The Ministry of Climate is developing the network of smart buoys in conjunction with the State Fleet ( Riigilaevastik).
Smart buoys come loaded with sensors which can collect a range of meteorological, physical, water quality, water level, chemical, biological, optical, and acoustic measurements among other data, giving a manifold clearer and more comprehensive picture of what is happening off Estonia's coasts than more traditional methods do.
Dubbed MEREHUNT ("Sea wolf"), the current project's aim is to create smart buoys with real-time forecasting and assessment capabilities, to get a clearer picture of what is happening in Estonia's maritime space.
The government office has allocated €1.35 million from the public sector innovation program for the purpose of the initial development and testing of the network, while the project is being implemented in cooperation with the private sector and with the universities.
Kaupo Läänerand, Ministry of Climate Deputy Secretary General with the responsibility for maritime affairs and water environment, said: "With this monitoring network, we not only get a higher awareness of what is happening in the maritime zone, but also reduce our environmental footprint, as the need to survey the state of the sea using vessels that consume fossil fuels will fall."
Läänerand said the MEREHUNT buoys will have the capability to collect necessary hydrological, meteorological and maritime safety and condition information, in real time, and can also help to respond promptly to marine pollution incidents.
This is particularly useful in that a polluter is often not located, due to a lack of evidence and with many incidents only coming to light when pollutants besmirch a beach or seashore, meaning the state has to bear the losses, Läänerand said.
Within the framework of the three-year project, various platforms, sensors, energy, communication and software solutions will be developed and piloted in Estonia's maritime zone.
Andres Laasma, State Fleet director, said that the project was an important step and will "bring a significant jump in the quality of various decision-making in the future" while the pilot project will offer a cooperation platform which "scientists, environmentalists, professional and amateur sailors, shipping traffic controllers, operators of offshore wind farms, as well as institutions related to national defense, can benefit from, in real terms."
Jaak Viilipus, head of the marine management department at the Ministry of Climate and manager of the project, said it is the first step in creating a "digital twin of the sea, "which will provide "the opportunity to automate sea monitoring in the future and to more accurately assess the processes taking place in the sea and the factors affecting them."
The network base infrastructure may also be utilized in the development of capabilities related to security and energy, in the future.
The project's working party is to be led by the Ministry of Climate in cooperation with the State Fleet and the Government Office, while experts from the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of the Interior, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), the Transport Board (Transpordiamet), the Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet), the Environmental Investment Center (KIK) and the Environment Agency (Keskonnaagentuur) will also all be involved.
The implementation of innovation projects is to be financed from the cohesion policy funds for the period 2021-2027.
Editor: Andrew Whyte