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Foresight Review of Ocean Safety

Foresight Review of Ocean Safety

Ocean Engineering

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Suggested citation

Lloyd’s Register Foundation (2021) Foresight review of ocean safety: engineering a safe and sustainable ocean economy [online] Available at: https://www.lrfoundation.org.uk/496707/siteassets/pdfs/lrf_foresight_review_of_ocean_safety_v3.pdf

Covering over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, the oceans are home to a large range of industries including fishing, oil and gas production, and shipping, whilst those who work at sea have some of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Our global energy, food and other supply chains are dependent on the ocean economy with 80 percent of our goods being transported by ship. The oceans contribute over $1.5 trillion each year to the global economy and this is predicted to double by 2030 with direct employment in ocean-related industries increasing to 40 million by 2030. A just transition to a low carbon, sustainable ocean economy necessitates investment, education, infrastructure, innovation, and decent, safe jobs.

But our oceans are poorly governed, over-exploited and largely unmapped.  Whilst our oceans host vast, biodiverse habitats, provide the largest global carbon sink, and produce over half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, the health of our oceans is already damaged.

This review looks at how can we keep our oceans safe and sustainable as the economic activity they support grows. Established and emerging industries require ocean infrastructure – and it is estimated that $90 trillion will be invested over the next decade on infrastructure alone. Blue finance can support solutions that address rising sea levels, climate change, pollution, labour and safety challenges and opportunities related to a sustainable ocean. But financial, policy and regulatory frameworks need clear principles, data, standards and metrics to catalyse responsible policy and business practices, across land and ocean interfaces.

Holistic and sustainable ocean infrastructures will require new approaches to ocean engineering.  Ocean engineering encompasses science, innovation and technology, knowledge systems, skills and techniques, communities and workers and facilitates the relationship between humans and the oceans. Its application covers the design, construction, maintenance and decommissioning of all human activity in the oceans: the structures, platforms, pipelines, boats, ships, underwater vehicles, aquaculture farms, subsea and digital systems necessary to sustain a more populous and safe world. Its practice should minimise harm and offer restorative abundance in the long term for overall global benefit.

This review presents issues which will drive demand for new engineering approaches. These include emerging ocean industries, climate change and coastal development, energy needs, marine biotechnology and nature sensitive engineering to strengthens and protect natural capital. It considers innovations in floating assets, cabling and pipelines, aquaculture and transportation and issues associated with deep ocean mining.

Ocean engineering must overcome the challenges associated with a relatively unmapped, unexplored and poorly understood environment, and the dynamic nature of the ocean space. International cooperation, underpinned by better public awareness, will be needed to strengthen governance and ensure engineering accounts for the interests of a wide set of stakeholders across international boundaries.  The new jobs that are created must be safe and decent, and not propagate existing inequalities nor create new ones.

Finding robust evidence for the most pressing safety challenges in and around our oceans and making it widely accessible will support decision makers to think in a longer-term, strategic manner and inform governmental, business, and financial intervention. It will support increased public awareness and engagement, driving better policies and consumer choices, and highlight the skills needed for the future blue workforce

The review suggests broad interventions that would support better ocean engineering.  These include: better understanding of our oceans; new materials; new design methodologies, including multi-use structure designs that incorporate decommissioning issues; better whole system economic tools; enhanced sensing, data sharing and autonomy; ocean maintenance approaches; and new approaches to ocean education and skills.

Finally, the review makes recommendations on where Lloyd’s Register Foundation can act to make a distinctive impact in delivering its charitable mission.

Suggested priority areas for action are:

Public awareness and policy: lead communication efforts to increase public awareness, develop ocean citizens, embed safety and sustainability principles, influence the financing mechanisms that will enable the new ocean economy and build on our maritime heritage

Evidence insight and ocean data: stimulate sharing of ocean data and transparency about ocean-related activities, impacts and dependencies.  Build actionable insight on all aspects of ocean safety, supporting others to share their data, and developing new tools, for example an ocean safety index

Decent work at sea: build a body of evidence and insight supporting the safety and welfare of those who work in the ocean economy; support others to ensure high standards of welfare and safety, actively protecting workers and vulnerable groups; and supporting equity, diversity and inclusion in a just transition.

Infrastructure and systems: support knowledge transfer across sectoral and geographic boundaries and catalyse cooperation and action in areas where new approaches and thought leadership is needed.  Build on its investments in areas such as autonomy and robotics, data centric engineering, decarbonisation and complex systems and accelerate new research and development in emerging areas such as multi use infrastructures, nature based engineering, marine spatial planning and full life cycle assessments.   

Education and skills: build the evidence needed to understand industrial and geographical skills requirement in the future ocean economy; develop new curricula, new methodologies and new skillsets requiring a wide range of interdisciplinary integration; and lead a global conversation about the safety skills needed in the new ocean economy, especially in disadvantaged or informal work settings.

Ocean Foresight: monitor and forecast new trends, including trade and supply chain effects, support technology and skills road mapping, and highlight the safety risks and opportunities throughout dynamic and interconnected emerging ocean industries. 

By building and sharing actionable evidence and insight, convening partnerships across international and sectoral boundaries, and supporting development of new knowledge, skills and methodologies, Lloyd’s Register Foundation can play a strong role supporting a safe and sustainable ocean economy.

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