Following the loss of the tanker ERIKA off the French coast in 1999, the European Union adopted several directives aimed at preventing accidents at sea and marine pollution.
Directive 2002/59/EC adopted by the Parliament and the Council on 27 June 2002 (later amended by Directive 2009/17/EC) established a Community vessel traffic monitoring and information system “with a view to enhancing the safety of efficiency of maritime traffic, improving the response of authorities to incidents, accidents or potentially dangerous situations at sea, including search and rescue operations, and contributing to a better prevention and detection of pollution by ships”.
At the same time, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) was also being established (Regulation 1406/2002/EC of 27 June 2002). When EMSA became operational in 2003, it was decided that the Agency should be responsible for setting-up and operating the new vessel traffic and monitoring system, which would be called SafeSeaNet. The process for setting-up SafeSeaNet was initiated in October 2004. The procedure had several stages, and the system finally became fully operational in 2009.
A major advance in 2010 was the development of a graphical interface. This allows information to be displayed on nautical charts, making it easier for users to quickly get an overview of activities in their areas of interest.