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Between €24m and €116m per annum of economic value generated thanks to the use of satellite radar images

[Satnews] The first case report on Copernicus Sentinels' Products Economic Value: A Case Study of Winter Navigation in the Baltic has just been published at the EARSC website case report--winter navigation in the baltic

The report details the analysis of the economic value generated by the use of satellite imagery in supporting winter navigation in the Baltic Sea. According to our analysis, between EUR24m and EUR116m per annum of economic value is being generated in Finland and Sweden thanks to the use of of satellite radar images.

In this report we detail the analysis of the economic value generated by the use of satellite imagery in supporting winter navigation in the Baltic Sea. It uses a methodology which traces the impact of such usage on the information and services through several steps in the value chain. At each step, the benefits are assessed and the value calculated.

The value-chain analyzed in this case takes steps starting with the icebreakers that work to keep the Finnish sea lanes and ports open throughout the winter. Finland is 90 percent dependent on sea transport for its exports and imports and so keeping the factories open and local populations supplied with goods throughout the year has a significant value. Finland has a very close co-operation with Sweden so the study also covers the impact on the Swedish economy.

Finnish and Swedish icebreakers use satellite radar images (which replaced the use of helicopters) to help find the best routes through the ice. Thanks to the wide-area view provided by the satellites, they are able to find better routes through the ice saving time, saving fuel and reducing the uncertainty in the ship arrival times in the ports. This has a positive impact on the various activities downstream and the wider economy.

This report is the first of a series of three cases in the frame of the study "Assessing the detailed economic benefits derived from Copernicus Earth Observation (EO) data within selected value chains," undertaken by EARSC under an assignment from the European Space Agency (ESA).


Previous economic benefit analyses on the use of EO data have largely been top down34. In each case, macro-economic values, for example concerning the impacts of climate change, are used to assess a value for EO missions by assigning a potential percentage contribution from satellite data. A more recent study5 takes a step further by identifying 6 major domains associated with the Copernicus services and looks at economic impacts in each one of those. This leads to conclusions regarding a future economic value and particularly estimates of the impact on jobs.

This Copernicus Economic Value Study builds upon previous work in this area but differs in several respects. Most significantly, it seeks to work bottom up by identifying a specific product out of the thousands that exist and, by looking at the way it is or can be used, estimate the economic value of the product right through the value chain.

Cost-benefit analyses of ice services have been conducted in the past. Most notably the IceMon cost benefit analysis studies the case of navigation in the Baltic and has provided us with some useful information which in part compensated for the lack of wider analyses of the ice services. However, the parameters used to assess benefits are quite broad and we are seeking a more detailed and precise analysis.

In this report we look at a radar product which comes from Sentinel 1 and its use to support winter navigation in the Baltic. However, our goal is not to assess the utilisation of this product but to look at the economic impact that its use has. We start by providing a detailed overview of the history and operation of the ice services in Finland and in Sweden. We chose these two countries because this is where the impact is greatest. For Finland, some 90 percent of the external trade passes by sea6 and as such Finland is sometimes considered as a quasi-island. Furthermore, Finland is the only country where all of its ports are frozen in a normal winter. Hence the importance of icebreaking services to the Finnish economy.

We go on to describe the whole value chain where this product plays an economic role. It starts with the icebreakers and passes through the ships and ports to the factories and consumers which rely on goods and services. At the start of this chain, the visibility of the product and its use is very high, whilst further down the chain, its use may be unknown even if it is helping to ensure the reliable flow of goods.

We develop a simple model which helps explain and understand how it affects the various players and we conclude with an economic assessment of the impact; noting that precise data is often lacking and that we must rely on many assumptions developed through our research. It is fair to note that we have been somewhat surprised not to find more information on which to construct our analysis. We had expected to find analyses of the value to the Finnish and Swedish economies coming from the provision (by the governments) of ice services. Despite many requests and extensive searching we have been unable to locate such studies. Indeed a current EC project WinMOS7 seeks to provide a model which will help in this analysis. Unfortunately it is not due until the end of 2015; but when it is available it will help to develop this case even further.

Our conclusion is that the benefits are substantial. Our estimates used throughout the work are conservative and we shall welcome them to be challenged. We have found the assessment to be illuminating and with much potential to be developed further.


In conclusion, the economic benefits to the Finnish and Swedish economies of the ice-breaking services and the added benefit which they derive from the use of satellite imagery are significant. At the outset of this study we expected to find a number of sources of value; we did not expect to find such a strong link between the use of the imagery and the local economy in Finland and Sweden. The numbers have surprised us. Those linked to the icebreakers and the ships are relatively solidly based on actual figures and sound assumptions. For the ports, the factories and the local economy, the assumptions which we have had to make seem reasonable and even conservative. We shall welcome discussion on those assumptions and to be challenged upon them if this can lead to more accurate estimates of the economic value of the imagery.

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