#BETB_2: FROM JELLYFISH TECH TO UNLOCKING THE FUTURE OF AUTONOMOUS SHIPPING

A weekly round-up of our favourite Blue Economy news and comment. 

Friend or foe?

Friend or foe?

SUSTAINABILITY

Are you ready for that jelly? Why it’s time to start eating jellyfish (via theguardian.com)

On the face of it, they are a blight on our seas and beaches – clogging the pipes of nuclear reactors; decimating salmon farm stocks; and even capsizing a 10-ton fishing boat. On the other hand, though, could jellyfish actually be a tech-enabled opportunity? They’re clearly a source of protein; if humans can eat them, could they more usefully be viewed as a fertiliser or a food source for animals and farmed fish? Might they be biodegradable and hence a source of renewable energy through anaerobic digestion? At the very least, we should take steps to improve our knowledge of jellyfish – their habitats, behaviours, their population growth and their impact on the marine environment. 

There is some evidence that jellyfish blooms can be seen in satellite imagery, but more work is required here. Combining satellite-derived datasets with ground-truthing assets such as in-situ fixed sensors on the seabed and in the water column, and the use of marine autonomous systems (USVs and AUVs), might help to bring to life this potential. Have any of our readers come across such research activity taking place? Please comment below.

UN maritime agency spotlights link between shipping and sustainable development (via UN.org)

Some wonderfully varied activity took place on World Maritime Day 2017, but amongst it all, we were delighted to see the tone of the headline messaging from the IMO as it is conveyed in this article. Too often, the shipping industry is seen as a sustainability problem. However, like Kitack Lim, the Secretary-General of International Maritime Organization, we would much prefer to view shipping, ports and indeed many other areas of the Blue Economy as an enticing opportunity to help deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

We were reminded of this recently when undertaking research for a new Blue Economy funding proposal for a tech-enabled IUU programme (hopefully more news to share on that soon!). In doing so, we calculated the effect that combating illegal fishing could have on the SDGs in the target country. Of course, the planned activity hit the most obvious goals (4 – Life Below Water; 2 – Ending Hunger), but the importance and reach of anti-IUU activity meant that we could clearly align potential programme outcomes to a further 11 SDGS, thus notching up 13 out of the potential total of 17.

Similarly, in ports and shipping, the potential for enhanced connectivity, satellite-derived services, autonomous activity in-port, and many more tech-enabled opportunities, are only going to increase the potential to deliver positive social outcomes at the same time as commercial benefit.

The Port of Rotterdam are leading testbeds of such innovation potential – trialling a range of marine and maritime innovations. We’re glad to see that the message that they and others are promoting may be beginning to cut through.

SMALL STATES

Operationalizing the Blue Economy in Small States: Lessons from the Early Movers (via cigionline.com)

Ontario-based think tank the Centre for International Government this week published this interesting short report on the challenges and opportunities facing Blue Economy development in small states.

Technology gets a couple of mentions. The Seychelles is praised for, amongst other things, integrating ocean-based technologies in the country’s energy strategy and modernising port infrastructure.

Secondly, new internationally supported initiatives are called for to catalyse technical capacity and expertise to support the Blue Economy in small states.

While the default position may be to consider larger states as being the key players driving the Blue Economy, technology innovation can allow you to do something new, do something better or perhaps do more with less, or the same, resource. It could be argued that small states may therefore have the most to gain here.

Can global funders play a larger and more visible role in joining up small state Blue Economy tech innovation? Congrats to report author Cyrus Rustomjee for this work. 

AUTONOMY

The 3 Vital Keys That Will Make Autonomous Shipping a Reality (via asvglobal.com)

A useful read for anyone interested in autonomous vessels. As the sector looks to move from proving capability to achieving scale, the key barriers and opportunities related to such growth need to be assessed.

According to expanding UK autonomous vessels company ASV Global, sensor fusion, control algorithms and communications are key to the future development of the market. What else should be added to that list?

DIGITAL SHIP

Maritime CIO Forum Rotterdam 2017 (via our good friends at digitalship.com)

Finally, it was our great pleasure to support Digital Ship Copenhagen 2017 this week. Nick chaired the event and was pleased to note real energy and a strong sense that digitally connected shipping is now really gaining traction.

Watch out for Nick’s full blog on the event in the coming days.