ICEMAR – A pilot operational GMES sea ice service for Arctic shipping
Fleming, Andrew1; Cziferszky, Andreas2; Berglund, Robin3; Pesonen, Antti3; Larsen, Hans Eilif4; Toudal, Leif5
1British Antarctic Survey, UNITED KINGDOM; 2British Antarctic Survey, AUSTRIA; 3VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, FINLAND; 4Kongsberg Satellite Services, NORWAY; 5Danish Meteorological Institute, DENMARK

In recent years the polar oceans have seen an increase in maritime activity resulting from an expansion of natural resource exploration and potential use of northern sea routes by commercial shipping operators driven by changes in Arctic sea ice extent. In addition these regions are witnessing growth in commercial fishing, tourism activity and scientific research cruises in the Arctic and Antarctic. Many of the issues related to Arctic marine safety and marine environmental protection are captured in the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment
( and related development of the IMO code of safety for ships operating in polar waters ( The EU Commission has released a comprehensive communication on "The European Union and the Arctic Region" which gives priority to the protection of the Arctic environment and sustainable development.

In this context sea ice is a significant navigational factor and safety hazard. Access to near-real-time sea ice information for ship operators helps them minimise delays, improve efficiency, and avoid safety hazards, damage to vessels and potentially severe consequences for the environment.

The European Space Agency has developed polar environmental information services through the Polar View project, funded through the GMES Service Element initiative. More recently the European Commission funded the development of the ICEMAR pilot operational sea ice service to be built on existing developments (e.g. Polar View, MyOcean), national capabilities (e.g. European national ice services) and commercial services. The primary aim of ICEMAR is to improve access to existing ice information products to aid ships navigating near or within ice-infested waters in the European Arctic (primarily the Greenland and Barents Seas) and the Baltic Sea. ICEMAR has developed a technical end-to-end service chain which provides onboard integrated access to multiple sources of sea ice information including satellite imagery and derived information products. The ICEMAR service comprises three components:

(1) A distributed and expandable network of data providers delivering information products in standardized formats.
(2) A central ICEMAR server which collates and processes input information from multiple data providers and communicates with each user of the service managing requests and subscriptions;
(3) An ICEMAR manager onboard each vessel which communicates requests and subscriptions to the central server and manages onboard delivery and display, accounting for communication links and data display capabilities.

The complete service represents an integrated and scalable solution which automates onboard access to geospatial sea ice and met-ocean information data, customised to user requirements and ship communication links. This paper will present the details of ICEMAR including the system architecture, the role of Earth observation data in generating the required information products, the vital role of standardized delivery in developing a distributed data network, the role of SAR imagery (including the Sentinel-1 mission) in this context and the benefits of an operational information service in the polar regions.