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SNIMar Geoportal: A tool for integrated geographic information for marine and coastal water management


As main output of the SNIMar project, which aims to develop a technological solution (a geoportal) that will gather and display the information on the marine environment collected by different entities, the SNIMar Geoportal is a thematic infrastructure of the National Geographic Information System (SNIG), which is managed by the Directorate-General for Territorial Development. In line with the INSPIRE Directive, the National Geographic Information System is connected with a European spatial data infrastructure, the INPIRE geoportal, that aids the decision-making of community environmental policies and other policies or activities which may have an impact on the environment.

The SNIMar geoportal is a key tool for the environmental management of the Portuguese marine waters, contributing to the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (MSP), since it simplifies the sharing, searching and accessing to metadata and marine data, particularly useful for public administration, universities and research institutes..

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • In Portugal, what marine information exists? How can we access this information?
  • How can we increase the capacity for assessing the environmental status in Portuguese marine waters?
  • How can this geoportal be used as data input to international marine data sets or geodatabases?

Implementation Context

Good management of the sea requires robust information about the marine environment and human activities occurring at sea and in coastal areas. In Portugal, this marine information is collected and processed by several public and private entities from different marine-related areas of activity. However, each entity collects the specific data it needs using its own methodologies and generally without knowledge of the type of data that other entities hold. This disconnect between entities leads to the duplication of data collection efforts and makes it difficult to know what data exist and where they are.

The mission of the SNIMar project was to develop a technological solution that would increase the capacity to assess the environmental status of Portuguese marine waters, a priority defined by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). This led to the creation of SNIMar - the National Marine Information System [Sistema Nacional de Informação do Mar]. SNIMar is a geoportal that centralizes the marine information of the various entities, facilitating its sharing, search and access. The SNIMar geoportal maximizes the effort expended by each institution in collecting data and contributes to the advancement of the marine sciences.

Aspects / Objectives

The main objectives of the SINMar geoportal is to provide a unique point of access of marine and coastal information which is shared among different platforms.

The geoportal also aims for the following objectives::

  1. To increase the number of online outputs and services about the marine environment provided by the public administration;
  2. To reduce the waiting period to obtain high-quality thematic information;
  3. To feed into the National Geographic Information Service (SNIG). Established 18 years ago through Decree-Law, Sistema Nacional de Informação Geográfica (SNIG), Portugal's national geographic information system, was the first national SDI in Europe and is maintained by the Instituto Geográfico Português (IGP). SNIG helped shift GIS implementation in the country to more collaborative production and dissemination of geographic information using the Internet, user groups, and mobile technologies. It provides an infrastructure that enables users to identify, visualise and explore Geographic Information, as well as to access databases supported by a harmonized data structure directly provided by their producers. 
  4. To ensure the operation of the system, preferably through an open license;


The SNIMar geoportal is supported by a spatial data infrastructure (SDI) that acts as a central point of aggregation, search and access to geographic information about the Portuguese marine environment.

The SNIMar geoportal allows users to search for marine information in the metadata catalogue, and to view and download data. The geoportal that is available to the public, however, is like the “tip of an iceberg” as it is the “visible” part of the spatial data infrastructure (SDI) that supports it. 

Screenshot of the SNIMar geoportal. Source: SNIMAR project

The SNIMar Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI):

This SDI includes the development of several products that guarantee that the access, search and sharing of information in the geoportal is user-friendly, comprehensive and perfectly adapted to marine issues. These products include:

  1. The SNIMar metadata profile
  2. The SNIMar metadata editor
  3. The local catalogues (for each associated entity)
  4. The Collaborative Keywords
  5. The SNIMar AutoGenerator (SAG) applications

Functional structure of the SNIMar Spatial data Infrastructure (SDI). Source: SNIMAR project

1. The SNIMar metadata profile:

Establishes the guidelines for creating the metadata to be included in the geoportal. To ensure that the metadata are catalogued in a harmonized way, the SNIMar metadata profile is based on the National Geographic Information Metadata  Profile (MIG  Profile), which is based on the ISO 19115 and ISO 19119 standards and the requirements of the INSPIRE Directive. In addition, it includes marine-related keyword fields.

2. The SNIMar metadata editor:

Is a Quantum GIS plug-in that can be installed on any computer, allowing any developer to create metadata.

3. The local catalogues (for each associated entity) (Fig. 2):

The SDI that supports SNIMar has been designed so that each participating entity may prepare, organize and share its marine geographic information through a local catalogue. Developed with GeoNode, an open source technology, the local catalogue includes a metadata catalogue and editor. Each local catalogue contains metadata for datasets and metadata for geographic data services. The metadata published in the local catalogues of each SNIMar partner entities are then gathered by a central catalogue that supports the SNIMar geoportal, which connects to each local catalogue through harvesting.

With this functional organization (Fig. 2), each entity is provided with an internal tool - the local catalogue - to organize its marine information and to decide what data and information will be made available to the public through the geoportal SNIMar. Through the geoportal it is possible to: search in the metadata catalogue and visualize and download data.

4. The Collaborative Keywords:

To ensure the presence of marine-related keywords, the Collaborative Keywords application was developed. It contains standardized lists of marine-related keywords - the SNIMar Thesaurus, a “dictionary of the sea”. When creating metadata, the SNIMar Thesaurus is used as a reference for choosing appropriate and harmonized keywords that strongly characterize marine information. The Collaborative Keywords application also relates keywords to each other, ensuring that the search results are as comprehensive and relevant as possible.

5. The SNIMar AutoGenerator (SAG) applications:

SAG is an application that automatically creates metadata and geospatial products for entities that have a large amount of organized information. However, it requires specific technological development tailored to the different data organization of each entity. This SAG allows entities providing large amounts of data and information not having to go through each record metadata and translating it to that used by the local catalogues of the SDI.

Functional organization of the SNIMar Spatial data Infrastructure (SDI). Source; SNIMar Project Main Brochure

Main Outputs / Results

The SNIMar geoportal with more than 5000 outputs is the main result. This geoportal sets apart from other geoportals because it has been specifically developed to the Portuguese context and aligned with marine-related disciplines and keywords. Another point of strength is that it is based on a shared infrastructure including different nodes. Each node is responsible for its own data and metadata; thus effort (to manage, update, quality check) data and metadata are shared among different institutions.

The collated information includes[1]:

  • Bathymetry and Marine Geomorphology
  • Marine Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Marine Biotechnology
  • Energy and Marine Geological Resources
  • Marine Geophysics
  • Marine and Coastal Geology
  • Marine Infrastructures
  • Legal Limits
  • Marine Meteorology
  • Monitoring and Marine Environment Quality Control
  • Navigation, Traffic and Marine Safety
  • Earth Observation
  • Oceanography
  • Management and Marine Spatial Planning
  • Underwater Cultural Heritage
  • Fishery and Aquaculture
  • Marine Pollution
  • Nautical Tourism and Sports
  • Other Human Activities

The SNIMar geoportal is an internet portal that allows public access to the information published. Through the geoportal it is possible to: search in the metadata catalogue and visualize and download data.


Developed in ESRI open-source technology, the SINMar geoportal allows for the transparency and reproducibility of the process. To guarantee the sustainability of the SNIMar geoportal, the project developed a data sharing policy to establish the guidelines for information sharing between the partner entities that provide information through the geoportal.

At the same time, the geoportal can serve as data input source to major international marine data sets or geodatabases.

Integration of the SNIMar geoportal with other national and international geoportals. Source: SNIMar Project

Contact Person

Jorge Miguel Alberto de Miranda - IPMA’s Director

Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA)

E-mail: (miguel[dot]miranda[at]ipma[dot]pt)

Responsible Entity 

Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA)

Costs / Funding Source

Funding Source: Co-funded by the EEA Grants (85%; 1,559,846 €) and the Portuguese State (15%; 380,381€), SNIMar is a pre-defined project of the “Integrated Coastal and Marine Water Management” program.


[1]Note: It is possible to include new disciplinary areas as long as the information is related to the sea and does not fall into these pre-defined disciplinary areas.