The changing dynamics of society, coupled with new technologies, both in terms of digital solutions and industrial capabilities, are opening up a new maritime world. Shipping is not lone on the seas, and the companies that have the expertise and skills to support the shipping and maritime sectors may soon be able to find new growing markets in the opening ocean space. This is the second of three initial examinations of new opportunities emerging in ocean economics.
A New Energy for Change
The Belgium the port of Oostende, losing out in the battle to command cross-channel freight and passengers has evolved, and turned itself into an energy port, focusing on the growing wind farm expansion in the shallow waters of the English Channel and southern North Sea. The growth of offshore wind farms has not been without controversy, but from a maritime industry point of view creates economic value for the large number of subsidiary companies such as wind farm support vessels and turbine construction vessels. For the Port of Oostende it was a lifeline.
The Port of Oostende has become a location of choice for infrastructure and logistics relating to the growing North Sea offshore windpower market
Now wind turbine technology has advanced to such a degree that systems are being built even further offshore in deeper water, raising new technology and logistics challenges that need to be considered. Several companies are designing ocean going deck barges or floating spar turbines for deep water use, with some images suggesting a height similar to the Eiffel Tower.
In the US, off Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind, is looking at creating a giant wind turbine array in the new future, with a promise of 700 jobs.
Other energy resources are also emerging in the ocean space: A handful of innovative ideas emerged in the last decade looking at how to extract energy from tidal and current flows as well as waves and even the thermal energy in the water. Most however are in pilot phases, but many have been hampered by a lack of investment.
Notably most of these ideas revolve around Northern Europe where the renewable energy market is strongest, while developing regions such as Africa continue to have a primarily focus on deep water oil and gas, thought Professor Hildebrand thinks that if society can promote technology transfer successfully the developing nations can leapfrog beyond the environmentally risky industrialisation that comes with advancement.
This is an area where there is significant growth. Fish farming has become ocean farming. Salmar, a fish food company has ordered the world’s first fully automated, semi-submersible ’smart deep-sea fish farm’, was completed by Qingdao Wuchuan Heavy Industry, a Chinese fabrication and ship yard. The unit, 110 m in diameter and 69 m in height can hold 1.5m salmon a year with the use of autonomous underwater units, sonar, large transportation vessels, satellite monitoring. Kongsberg and Rolls-Royce are two maritime companies involved in the project.
Satellite connectivity is also being used in sustainable farming in Thailand. Inmarsat has rolled out new tools for MAR Petcare. MARS is big player in the consumer market with many well-known brands in its portfolio. It was concerned about growing regulations relating to fishing and making sure the catches it acquires are above board. So now in Thailand trawlers are connected, and fish catches can be recorded and monitored. It creates a level of accountability and traceability which is important given the increased desire by consumers to understand product provenance.
This is another example of the changing ocean space as populations grow globally (another 2bn by 2050). There is increased demand on the planet, and with 70% of the planet covered in fragile ocean and sea, it is understandable the pressure will build up with the UN playing a significant role in creating the geo-political acceptance of sustainable ocean governance.
A number of high-level meetings and events on the issue have been raising the issues relating to this, particularly on the sustainable policies that need to be created to promote the right approach to ocean and marine use. The use of the oceans relates directly to at least three of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.