In 1988 began in Portugal a technological pilot project, launched by INESC ( in partnership with UNISYS Portugal and supported by the Portuguese State Department of Fisheries and DG XIV of the European Commission. The results achieved have revolutionized techniques for monitoring and control of fishing activities worldwide.
The project was called MONICAP™ (Continuous monitoring of fishing activities) and is in use in Portugal and globally ever since. It evolved and is now one of the most advanced VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) available in the world market (
MONICAP™ has become one of the first cases of success in innovation and internationalization in ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in Portugal, with important economic and environmental impact. In INOV (, a spin off of INESC, it had a great evolution from technology to business and in 2013 the project was spun to a spin off called XSEALENCE-Sea Technologies, SA (

The basic function of a VMS is to provide the location of a vessel at regular intervals. Fishery authorities can check a range of factors including whether the vessel operates in an area where fishing activities are not permitted or have the necessary licenses and quotas to fish in the geographical area where they are. VMS does not replace the other methods, but completes them, making them more effective. The irregularities can still be detected later on by cross-checking of data.
MONICAP ™ is a devoted monitoring system for the inspection of fishing activities using satellite for geographical positioning (GPS, EGNOS) and communications (Inmarsat-C, Iridium), that can be complemented with VHF or GSM.
Each vessel monitored is equipped with a MONICAP ™ blue box, whose main function is to record all relevant data on the ship’s behaviour and transmit it to the control centre for processing.
The features of the control centre allow monitoring of the fishing fleet and remote control of on-board units through a communications module responsible for the input and output message management, a database which stores all the information that is made available for further analysis and provided to several application modules (maps, risk analysis, fishing effort, and others) and a geographic information system.
The information stored in the control centre can be relayed to relevant entities such as foreign control centres in whose jurisdiction waters the ship is acting, for the owner, for research bodies of fishing activities, etc.

The implementation of fisheries policy is a full responsibility of the state, and is closely related to national importance of aspects such as sovereignty, economy, society and environment.
The analysis of the experience of previous control measures for fishing activities worldwide revealed the need to strengthen the monitoring of fish stocks conservation rules. In this regard several systems were developed, such as inspection vessels, aircraft patrol, control centres, monitoring and control of the fishing vessels based on continuous satellite monitoring, with computerized control centres.
The monitoring and control systems of fishing vessels based on continuous satellite monitoring with computerized control centres enable to automatically view in the control centre for any vessel, anywhere, at any time of day, 365 days a year, the geographic location with an accuracy of a few meters, speed – identifying probable fishing activity – and the direction (bearing).
These systems have a cost of investment, maintenance and operation significantly low and a very high degree of efficiency when compared to other systems.

Currently it is mandatory that all EU fishing vessels over 12 meters in overall length, regardless of the area of operation, are equipped with a satellite monitoring system. The system must have capacity to report the position, speed and direction with a minimum frequency of every 2 hours.
The original MONICAP ™ system was designed to register the vessel position every 10 minutes and report positions according to the legislation. The evolution of ICT allows registration frequencies to be configurable (absolutely or relative to geographic areas, time periods, alert or emergency, etc.), in particular by allowing the use of advanced systems for reporting and automatic detection of various events.
The system has been extended to shorter vessels and is now under discussion, analysis and test solutions to extend the application of the VMS concept to artisanal fishing vessels.

From 1988 to 1992 the MONICAP ™ system saw its development, testing, manufacturing and first commercialization in Portugal. 1992 marked the start of supplies to the Portuguese authorities, at the time represented by the General Directorate of Fisheries. During the following years emerged numerous pilot installations around the world, from Ireland to Australia.
Sales also followed a similar path, from Africa to the Middle East, making the system an essential international reference. Cooperation with the European Commission (EC), always in conjunction with the Portuguese authorities, was the evolution engine for the system, leading to new developments and adaptations over the years, as well as the participation in the implementation of new rules of the EC.
Today the system is installed in more than 1,000 ships worldwide, with 14 command and control centres (including two on-board patrol boats, in an evolution of the system integrating with the control of maritime missions). Portugal, Angola, Turkey, Sao Tome and Principe and Cape Verde are today equipped with several tools that originated in this Portuguese project.
One should note that the experience and development of MONICAP ™ provided INESC to enter the terrestrial geolocation systems market. Beginning in 1993, a European research project (CARGOTRACK, Esprit Project 8487), was developed and demonstrated the concept of terrestrial fleet management systems that gave rise to the appearance of the XTraN ™ system. The system was later transferred to a company (TECMIC, www.tecmic.pcom/en) that nowadays maintains it active around the world, from Europe to South America and Africa.

Solutions as described above have been evolving for new areas, namely:
• Increased automation of activities
• Fishing effort, monitoring of fish discharges
• Tools to support the inspectors
• Integration with other navigation and safety systems (VTS, VDR, AIS)
• Security (SOLAS, GMDSS)
• Aids to navigation, weather information (crew support)
• Support for exploitation, fleet management, fleet safety, electronic commerce, electronic reporting systems (support to ship-owners)
• Risk analysis
• Integration of new sensors, from image and video to the behaviour of the ship, fish weight and arts detection.
In the case of MONICAP ™, an important evolution in the last decade was the installation of a new solution embedded in patrol ships (and prepared for installation in aircrafts). In this way the authorities have a real-time connection to the ground control centres, enabling the exchange of information between what is happening and what is analysed in the command and control centre, thus improving the planning of missions and the monitoring and control of activities. The system is in operation in Africa.

The MONICAP ™ system allows the tracking and tracing of vessels in real time, the research of historical data, the monitoring of activity in particular geographical areas (by reasons of geography or species) and the planning of inspection missions, in addition to providing important data for scientific research related to marine resources.
It is today an international reference solution, referred to by its history, evolution evidenced, by the research and innovation capabilities of the team and by the distinctive capabilities it kept to the competition. And it is a success story in innovation and internationalization of ICT in Portugal.
The project, which began in 1988 with a clear objective as a Project of National Interest, revealed an accurate technological, scientific, social and business visions. It showed that these initiatives of national interest are likely to generate sustainable global paths with impact from research to economic results, not forgetting the inseparable sustainability and efficiency concerns of human activity.

Fernando Moreira
[email protected]