The Dutch Ministry of Defence is buying cameras and radar systems for drilling rigs and wind turbines at sea. The armed forces are also investing in satellite data. With these observation tools, threats against vital infrastructure on the seabed can be recognised earlier. To secure the North Sea, Defence is also buying two new ships.

State Secretary of Defence Christophe van der Maat announced this to the House of Representatives on 19 December.

For six months now, the Ministry of Defence has been contributing permanently to imaging threats at sea. This is done in close cooperation with the Coast Guard. With the acquisition of the aforementioned assets, the military organisation is strengthening its ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capacity. This capability helps deter sabotage and espionage.

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The threat consists mainly of surface ships whose crews carry out undesirable activities underwater. That is, for example, exploring or damaging oil and gas pipelines or internet cables. It will now be a lot harder to do that undetected. This is because satellites with ‘synthetic aperture radar’ also recognise vessels that have switched off their identification system.

Defence monitors the Dutch area of the North Sea, but also the area bordering it. This also involves cooperation with other countries. Ships that may pose a threat can thus be detected earlier. Incidentally, Defence is buying the satellite capacity commercially for the time being. From 2027, the armed forces will have it at their own disposal.

Two new ships

To secure the North Sea, Defence is also buying two new, relatively simple ships. They will have a small crew and be equipped with sensors and underwater equipment to investigate suspicious situations. The Minister will send another letter about these vessels to Parliament in 2024.

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Apart from the Ministry of Defence, other agencies are also contributing to the protection of vital infrastructure in the North Sea. Several ministries work together in the North Sea Infrastructure Protection Programme. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has a leading role in this.

The Netherlands also cooperates internationally with countries bordering the North Sea. Defence does so within NATO, the Joint Expeditionary Force and the Northern Naval Capability Cooperation. Within the latter, a research centre aimed at securing subsea infrastructure was recently opened in The Hague, the so-called Seabed Security Experimentation Centre (SeaSEC).

Picture: Dutch naval vessel on the North Sea (by the Dutch Ministry of Defence).

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