The ocean and the Blue Economy are top priorities in Portugal and in the European Union, as reflected by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), National Ocean Strategy (2013), Commission’s Atlantic Strategy (2011), and Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic Area (2013).
Within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the initial assessment of the marine waters reported by Portugal included the subdivision of the continent, the subdivision of the Azores, Madeira and the subdivision of the extended continental shelf, defined taking into account their hydrographic, oceanographic and biogeographic characteristics.
Several knowledge gaps regarding biodiversity descriptors were identified in those areas, which constrained the assessment of the environmental status regarding those descriptors. In the framework of the MSFD implementation Portugal proposes a monitoring programme (PMo) for the continuous assessment of the environmental status of marine waters and periodic updating of the environmental targets. A Programme of Measures (PMe) is also proposed which expresses Portugal’s intention of creating new large marine protected areas delimited in deep oceanic zones to be included in the OSPAR seamounts habitat. These actions intend to contribute to the preservation of Portugal’s natural patrimony and the economic activities linked to the seabed. In this sense it is of crucial importance to monitor the ecosystems and their biodiversity using new technological equipment to assess Portuguese Remote Marine Areas, including new technologies enabling marine data dissemination.
On the other hand, as defined by the National Ocean Strategy (2013), Portugal’s immense ocean territory, its extended Continental Shelf expected to be achieved by 2018, and its associated Blue Economy potential is envisioned to increase the activity at the ocean in the forthcoming years, including resource exploitation on the sea floor, environmental monitoring, scientific exploration, and surveillance of maritime borders, apart from the traditional activities such as maritime transportation and fisheries. This vision is also reflected in the Commission’s Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic Area.
The support of these activities will demand wireless and mobile communications to connect humans and systems at remote ocean areas to the Internet, namely in order to: 1) easily disseminate marine data collected by fixed and mobile ocean intelligent platforms at surface and underwater such as Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs); 2) enable users’ access to the state of the art Internet-based services and applications available on land.
There is no communications solution enabling broadband, cost-effective Internet access at remote ocean areas in alternative to satellite communications.