Marine routes represent a huge portion of commercial and human trades, therefore surveillance, security and environmental protection themes are gaining increasing importance. Being able to overcome the limits imposed by terrestrial means of monitoring, ship detection from satellite has recently prompted a renewed interest for a continuous monitoring of illegal activities. This paper describes an automatic Object Based Image Analysis (OBIA) approach to detect vessels made of different materials in various sea environments. The combined use of multispectral and SAR images allows for a regular observation unrestricted by lighting and atmospheric conditions and complementarity in terms of geographic coverage and geometric detail. The method developed adopts a region growing algorithm to segment the image in homogeneous objects, which are then classified through a decision tree algorithm based on spectral and geometrical properties. Then, a spatial analysis retrieves the vessels’ position, length and heading parameters and a speed range is associated. Optimization of the image processing chain is performed by selecting image tiles through a statistical index. Vessel candidates are detected over amplitude SAR images using an adaptive threshold Constant False Alarm Rate (CFAR) algorithm prior the object based analysis. Validation is carried out by comparing the retrieved parameters with the information provided by the Automatic Identification System (AIS), when available, or with manual measurement when AIS data are not available. The estimation of length shows R2=0.85 and estimation of heading R2=0.92, computed as the average of R2 values obtained for both optical and radar images.