Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.


Shipping is one of the most important vectors of change in the European Seas. The environmental impacts can include the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms by ballast water and biofouling, gas emissions, oil pollution, sludge, sewage, garbage, transport of dangerous goods, antifouling coatings and underwater noise.

New technology is gradually being introduced to world fleet in order to enhance fuel efficiency, including improved hulls, new surface materials and even ballast-free ships. In terms of these developments, the EC has defined a maritime transport policy until 2018 and several platforms involving the maritime industry have already started to define short and long-term objectives and implementation plans.

The three seas studied during VECTORS have very different characteristics with regard to shipping:

  • Western Mediterranean: the density of merchant vessel traffic in this area is particularly high. It is estimated that approximately 30% of the international sea-borne trade volume originates or is directed to the Mediterranean ports or passes through the sea even though it represents less than 1% of the total area covered by the world’s oceans.
  • Baltic Sea: The Kiel Canal in the Baltic is the busiest waterway in the world in terms of small and mid-sized container vessel traffic and around 2,000 ships can be found in the Baltic at any moment. The Baltic Sea, is one of the three sea basins in the world with the most urgent environmental pressures due to shipping activities.
  • North Sea: This sea has the main offshore oil extraction site in Europe, the greatest concentration of large ports as well as Europe’s three biggest ports, it is also an important crossroads travelled by numerous ferry routes.


VECTORS research focus:

  1. Undertake a detailed review of current marine governance at the international, EU and national level, with a particular focus on renewable energy, fisheries and shipping
  2. Develop a method for undertaking risk assessments in the marine environment, with a focus on renewable energy, fisheries and shipping

Lead Author

Matej David

Explore other research themes under the categories below:

The content of this website may be subject to copyright, if you wish to use any of the information or figures please contact the attributed author(s).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

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