The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 project announces new global initiatives in pursuit of mapping entire ocean floor
Three new global initiatives for mapping the world’s entire ocean floor have been announced in London, UK, at a special conference organised by The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, the international collaborative project to produce a complete, freely available map of the seafloor by the year 2030.
They will be overseen by the new Seabed 2030 director, experienced UK hydrographer and former naval officer Jamie McMichael-Phillips, whose appointment was also announced at the conference.
From Vision to Action, which took place at the Royal Society on 22 October, was convened to mark the progress made in the two years since Seabed 2030 was launched, and to look ahead to the remaining challenges of mapping the gaps in our understanding of the seafloor. In the short time that it has been operational, Seabed 2030 has already seen a doubling of the bathymetric data available to produce the definitive map of the world’s oceans – an increase equivalent in size to the landmass of the entire African continent.
As part of plans announced in London by Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of The Nippon Foundation, Japan, Seabed 2030 will provide vessels around the world with data-gathering equipment to enable them to contribute to the project. These vessels will have data loggers installed to record bathymetric information, increasing mapping capacity and capability and establishing new connections between Seabed 2030 and owners of vessels including fishing fleets, tourist boats, and pleasure craft.
In some of the most remote and poorly mapped frontiers of the ocean, Seabed 2030 will fund additional dedicated mapping days for already scheduled expeditions, and create a pool of experienced multibeam echosounder (MBES) operators that can assist expeditions lacking this data acquisition capability to ensure that vital data are collected at all the times, including during transit. This model was recently employed in Seabed 2030’s partnership with the pioneering Five Deeps Expedition, led by explorer Victor Vescovo, which gathered detailed bathymetric information at each of its dives to the five deepest points in the world’s oceans.
Seabed 2030 will also champion the development of innovative, scalable new solutions to increase the efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness of deep-sea mapping, paving the way for public participation on the widest scale possible to meet the project’s goals.
“The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project is inspiring an international movement for advancing our understanding of the oceans,” said Sasakawa, who launched Seabed 2030 at the UN Ocean Conference in 2017. “This can only be achieved through cooperation and collaboration between scientific research institutes, private organisations, and industry partners on an unprecedented scale. Everyone who travels, explores, or uses our oceans has a role to play and can benefit from this initiative.
“A complete map, accessible by anyone, anywhere, will be an invaluable tool in the global effort to protect our oceans for generations to come.”
From Vision to Action brought together some of the world’s leading ocean scientists and maritime organisations, including representatives from the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. Also in attendance were delegates from the XPRIZE Foundation, industry partners, and the team behind SEA-KIT, the unmanned surface vessel (USV) which formed a key part of the GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team’s winning entry in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
The conference was opened by Koji Tsuruoka, Japanese ambassador to the UK, and addressed by Professor Andy Hopper, treasurer and vice-president of the Royal Society. The keynote speech was delivered by Rear Admiral Shepard Smith, director of the Office of Coast Survey at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who spoke about the importance of Seabed 2030 and further international collaboration in support of its aims.
A capacity audience attended the Marine Tech Transformers event on 1 November, hosted by Marine-i in Pool, Cornwall. The aim was to showcase the award-winning technologies, products for global markets, and cutting-edge industry and research collaborations which have been supported by Marine-i.
Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Marine-i was designed to help the UK marine technology sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly grow through harnessing the full potential of research and innovation.
Professor Lars Johanning of University of Exeter, lead partner for Marine-i, highlighted the key achievements of the project. These include supporting 100 Cornish businesses with market-led RD&I, providing grant support to 61 innovation projects, helping bring 14 new products to market, and leveraging £1.25 million in private match funding.
He said: “Marine-i has helped to transform marine technology innovation in Cornwall. The county now has the potential to play a pivotal role in the sustainable marine industries of the future, including marine energy, marine manufacturing, maritime operations and marine environmental technologies. Cornwall is becoming recognised as a world player in these important growth technologies.”
Delegates saw a new Marine-i video showing the exciting breadth and scope of marine innovation that has emerged from Cornwall over the life of the project. After this there were presentations from eight of the innovative marine businesses which have received support, alongside Business Research fellows from University of Exeter and University of Plymouth. Delegates then viewed a special Marine-i Showcase Exhibition, featuring some of the new marine technologies in development.
Commenting on the success of the event, Professor Johanning said: “Marine-i has been a powerful catalyst for innovation and has proven that there is huge ambition among marine businesses in Cornwall to develop pioneering solutions to worldwide challenges. Marine-i has helped create an environment where innovative marine businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly now have a much greater chance of long-term success. That is our legacy and we look forward to seeing these foundations being built upon.”