Although Belgium has a relatively shorter coastal line (measuring only 65 kilometers / 41 miles), it is a main maritime nation, with a lot of traffic passing through its territorial waters. The ‘Maritiem Informatie Kruispunt’ (Maritime Information Center) or MIK in Zeebrugge, is responsible for the security of Belgium’s territorial waters and its maritime interest. This very important task requires state-of-the-art and extremely reliable monitoring solutions, and MIK now relies on Barco OpSpace to monitor and operate on situational awareness systems in their crisis coordination room.
The North Sea is one of Belgium’s main ways for economic trade transport. Did you know that no less than 90% of the European Union’s external trade travels over water? The same goes for oil import: 90% is carried over sea. Belgium is an economic hub in the European Union, and houses 2 main harbors: Antwerp (which is the second largest port in Europe) and Zeebrugge (the most important port for car handling).
MIK monitors and controls the complete Belgian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which not only entails the sea traffic passing through the waters, but also national economic interests (including a large windmill park) and nature reserves. Furthermore, MIK also keeps a global eye on all ships sailing under Belgian flag – which is the 16th largest fleet in the world.
“The operational branch of the Belgian Coast Guard is divided between MIK, which handles security matters, and the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Center (MRCC) in Ostend, which is responsible for safety matters”, explains Thierry Timmerman, at MIK. “At MIK, we support both MSA (Maritime Situational Awareness) and MSO (Maritime Security Operations). Our tasks are to collect, to process and to distribute information to the coastguard partners, and to support their duties with a focus on security at sea.”
The critical infrastructure control room at MIK is operational 24/7. When an abnormal situation occurs, the Crisis Room is activated. In order to visualize the crisis, MIK uses a large Barco OverView video wall and to control their operational systems it uses Barco OpSpace, the digital workspace software solution for control room operators. OpSpace also enables the MIK staff to select the right common operational picture to be pushed to the OverView video wall. Additionally, with a single keyboard and mouse, content from different operational sources can be selected and worked on. Exactly the information that is needed to solve the crisis can be made available in the crisis room without losing precious time.
“The number of active sources is efficiently managed to include only the relevant information that is needed to solve the crisis”, Thierry continues. “Because there are multiple teams available here (both military and civil), access to the information is strictly controlled by linking it to enterprise credentials. Based on the login credentials and their access levels, OpSpace knows exactly which operational sources should be made available to a specific user. In the past, we needed to work with multiple computers, each with their own keyboard and mouse. Now, we control all applications with one keyboard and mouse, which is a lot more efficient.”
Today, OpSpace is being extensively used in the MIK crisis room, but this will change soon. “We have been involved in OpSpace since its early conception”, Thierry said. “This allowed us to watch the solution mature. We did quite some tests with the version we have now and have used OpSpace both in training missions and real-life situations. We are fully confident that the system is stable for mission-critical scenarios and we will roll it out into all the other control rooms soon. At first the control room operators were a bit concerned to work with a new system, but they have all come to try the highly intuitive and user-friendly software solution in the crisis room and most people know their ways around the system just within an hour. I also wrote a personalized user guide to help them get started. Now everybody is enthusiastic and looking forward to see OpSpace help keep Belgium’s national maritime interests secure.”