Surveillance cameras deployed in North sea against sabotage

From 1 January, surveillance cameras may be deployed in the North Sea to secure critical infrastructure such as wind turbines or the future energy island says North Sea minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD).

With 50,000 passages a year, the North Sea is busier than ever. The Maritime Security Act, which regulates safety at sea and in ports, was therefore in need of renewal. Moreover, the Russian invasion of Ukraine showed that the critical infrastructure in the Belgian part of the North Sea - 2.2 gigawatts of wind turbines, the power socket at sea and dozens of submarine cables and pipelines - must be secured against sabotage and espionage.

Surveillance cameras at sea should contribute to this. Until now, this has not been possible because the law regulating privacy is not adapted to the situation at sea. A new royal decree coming into force on 1 January fits a sleeve to that, allowing both intelligent cameras to automatically recognise vessels and mobile cameras at sea. The devices can be installed on board boats or aircraft, or operate via drones.

To ensure privacy, anyone using a camera at sea must comply with GDPR legislation, and thus keep records of how the data is processed and where the images can be viewed. On the street, a pictogram warning that filming is taking place is enough to obtain consent, but since that is not possible at sea, a mention on the website of the Directorate-General of Shipping a publication in the 'Notices to Mariners' will suffice. Only the government will be able to monitor the cameras.

The legal text to enable the deployment of cameras at sea was already approved in the House of Representatives in July. Meanwhile, the royal decree has been published in the Belgian Official Gazette.


A close up view of a gray seal peeking out of the water in the North Sea. © BELGA PHOTO


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