About Project


The project “High Sea Challenge” focuses on the use of biometric technologies to identify possible threats fight piracy and terrorism in a maritime context.
Biometrics appears as an innovative and crucial technology to support NATO national Forces in operations and is considered as one of the NATO Nations’ top strategic and operational capabilities.

The main innovative element is its implementation based on the intensive use of NATO infrastructures and structures. In particular the project aims to highlight the capabilities of the NABIS (NATO Automatic Biometric Identification System) as a possible future hub for the development of allied counterterrorism strategies.






The project aims to verify all the elements of the chain that links the acquisition of biometrics data on board a vessel with the NABIS. The verification involves, among other elements, the biometric sensors, the lines of secure data transmission and the identification capabilities of the NABIS.





Analysis of the project

34Countermeasures to the threats posed by small vessels can be bolstered by robust technology such as biometrics. Biometrics has  been  identified  as  a  critical  capability  in  countering  emerging security threats and, although it remains a national competency, the Alliance is working on interoperability and has created a  prototype of biometric repository, the NATO Automated Biometric Identification System (NABIS). NATO Nations, with the support of NATO entities, are developing their capabilities to support biometrics, but these capabilities should be improved and tested in a real operational context, through the phases of collection, analysis, transmission and sharing of biometric data.

The project “Biometrics in support of naval units to fight piracy and terrorism” took place in the framework of the DAT POW and aims at enhancing NATO and NATO partners’ capacity to act jointly to prevent terrorism and piracy, by sharing experiences on the field of technical and operational interoperability and gaining an advantage from the best practices adopted in previous NATO naval operations.

The trial demonstration aimed at demonstrating and assessing technical and operational interoperability in the biometrics and Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) domain in the maritime environment and specifically at high seas.

During the real trial demonstration the management of biometric data tested in a maritime context, which was characterized by challenging logistical and environmental conditions. Particular attention was devoted to test the interoperability between naval and land components.



The main benefits offered by the project to the Alliance are:

1.Identification and amendment of technical and logistic gaps involved in the use od biometrics in the maritime domain for counterpiracy and counterprograms purposes
2.Militainment of a technology advantage for NATO Nations
3.Promotion of interoperability among partner nations and services
4.Involvement and encouragement of NATO nations industry in a strategic domain



The project aims to develop the following deliverables (UNCLASSIFIED):

1.    The handbook of the project
2.    A specific study on the use of biometrics at sea
3.    A specific study on the architecture of the biometric systems adopted in the project
4.     Website
5.     Table Top Exercise
6.    The reports of the various meetings
7.    The report of the real exercise
8.    The final report of the project



To highlight the fundamental role played by the NATO structures, and in particular by the NABIS (NATO Automatic Biometric Identification System) in fighting serious crimes, such as piracy and terrorism, in a maritime scenario.







Main objectives of the project are:

•    To test all the elements involved in the use of biometrics at sea (sensors, biometric data collection, storage and transmission)
•    To test the capabilities of the NABIS (NATO Automatic Biometric Identification System)
•    To develop lessons learned and appropriate tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs)
     To inject them in future NATO Nations’ or in NATO training education and exercises

The necessity of the project


The use of biometrics promises to be a very effective weapon to counterbalance the threats arising from anonymity. Biometrics are intensively used in many circumstances (e.g. border controls) but their usage in the maritime domain, to check the identity of  individuals in order to prevent and fight serious crimes such as piracy and terrorism represents a very challenging task.

The use of biometrics to verify the identity of individuals found at sea has received a strong impulse in the last years in the context of antipiracy naval operations in several “dangerous” maritime areas.

Although, due to a series of robust military operations the number of “traditional” piracy assaults has dramatically decreased, new security challenges are appearing on the horizon and recent events have shown that the threats in the maritime environment are quickly evolving.