Marine Technology is Fueling the New Blue Economy

April 10, 2019

The New Blue Economy is on fire. By some estimates the value of the oceans to the world’s economy is vast — $24 trillion, according to the World Wildlife Fund, making it the world’s seventh largest economy. The European Union finds that it employs 3.48 million people in the EU with an Annual Gross Profit of $96.1 billion (according to the 2018 annual economic report on the EU blue economy). And, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, by 2030, the Blue Economy could outperform the growth of the global economy as a whole.

In the U.S., NOAA estimates that the ocean economy has been growing at twice the rate of the rest of the U.S. economy, employing 3.2 million people and contributing $320 billion.

So, what is enabling much of that growth and opportunity? — advances in marine technology.

The New Blue Economy

The Blue Economy has been around since man took to the seas; profiting from shipping, fishing, mineral resources, and tourism. The New Blue Economy expands this concept, and applies science and technology to the traditional Blue Economy, harnessing predictive capabilities through ocean observation using platforms such as unmanned untethered vehicles (e.g. gliders, sail drones, wave gliders, Argo Floats, deep ocean buoys, remotely operated/piloted vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles, etc.), satellites, and ships, as well as state-of-the-art sensors and more.

And equally important is the emerging capability to acquire, manage, and distribute vast amounts of data and information, as exemplified by programs like the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).

“In the last 20 years there has been an explosion in the capacity to gather and process data from the oceans and coasts, and that is helping to provide more accurate, real-time data on severe weather, waves/tides/currents, ocean temperature and chemistry, “red tides”, ice concentrations, and more,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., MTS President, former Chief Scientist at NOAA, and Vice President for Research at Oregon State University. “The New Blue Economy is a ‘knowledge-based,’ non-extractive economy, that helps mitigate risks and fuels opportunities for all sorts of industries.”

Commercial Applications

The commercial application of these data takes widely available information — as you might get from free weather apps — and applies proprietary model formulations (also made possible by technological developments in high-performance computing and artificial intelligence) to make very accurate predictions beyond what is publicly available and meeting specific tailored needs.

Here are just a few examples of commercial and public health uses of predictive modeling of ocean data.

  • Commercial shipping companies want to know precisely when the Arctic will be free of ice for six weeks – and they want to know that months ahead of time so they can plan their shipping routes.
  • In some coastal areas, the government is using predictions about when “red tide” algae blooms will occur, so they can warn people and prepare health care workers for increased cases of respiratory difficulty.
  • Some commercial fishing outfits use predictive models to find the best location for certain types of fish.
  • Port pilots are using information on water density, currents, and waves to guide commercial freighters into port efficiently and without incidents.
  • Government and the military use predictive models of severe ocean conditions to plan for disasters, shore up infrastructure, and better navigate the seas.
  • Marine scientists and regulatory bodies are using data on ocean currents and temperatures to protect species; for instance, using it in the Northeastern U.S. to protect Northern Right Wales from commercial shipping harm by altering shipping lanes away from their migration path.

Looking to the Future

With all this opportunity, comes a responsibility to use the oceans sustainably and to share knowledge; to collaborate across nations; to advance public/private partnerships, and to ensure that the professionals working in and developing commercial applications in marine technology are highly educated and following best practices.

When new industries are exploding with growth as is happening with the New Blue Economy, memberships in professional societies, advanced degrees, professional certifications, and accreditations are ways to validate the knowledge and expertise of those working in the field.

Marine technologists will have a significant impact on the future, helping advance new renewable energy sources; providing better data for mineral, marine management, and commercial shipping; mitigating coastal damage and severe weather hazards; and supporting sustainable food harvesting. The opportunity in the industry is infinite.

Maximize your role in the New Blue Economy. Join the international community of experts. Become a part of the Marine Technology Society.

Author – Lisa Stryker, Communications Specialist, Marine Technology Society

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