Approximately 93% of the world’s heat is absorbed by the oceans. Otherwise, the temperature of the Earth would be much higher. At the same time, all the work on climate change related to the oceans is currently based on the good will of the participants of the intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The “blue economy” is valued at over $3 trillion and it is more stable than the economy on land. However, the amount of funding for ocean research is about $1 billion, that is, three thousand times less than the value of the generated product. It is necessary to raise the level of awareness of the population about the processes in the oceans, to carry out coastal zoning, to ensure the sustainable development of the fishing industry and aquaculture. All this can be done if the efforts of the authoritative participants of the intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission are involved.
If properly managed, the ocean economy can minimize waste production. At the same time, water becomes a key resource: a bottle of water in Moscow is already more expensive than a liter of gasoline. Obviously, there is no way to divide the ocean in the same way as land. This ecosystem lives in general development. By 2030, world total marine catch is projected to grow to 209 million tons, which is in line with the growth of the world’s population. The ocean remains a key transport corridor: by 2050, the demand for cargo transportation by its waters will triple. Sea and river transport is the absolute and undisputed leader in terms of environmental performance of transportation. More than 80% of all international cargo carriage is carried out by sea. In the future, it will remain the most effective and popular mode of transport for long distances.
However, the level of knowledge about the oceans does not exceed 10%. Even space is better understood than ocean. Spending on ocean research in developed countries reaches no more than 4% of the total investment in research, and Russia, unfortunately, is no exception. Our objectives are to develop the Northern Sea Route: to build icebreakers, research vessels, platforms, tankers, tending vessels and the cruise Arctic ships.
Funding for ocean exploration within the European Union has been slow, and research has been conducted mainly on a national basis. The ocean is the last of the unexplored borders, and we are heavily dependent on it for food and energy, including wind and tidal energy. Ocean pollution is currently a big problem and it is not only plastic on the surface of the water, but also the one that gets into the human body with food. That’s a big threat. Shipbuilders are well aware of the importance of ocean exploration. Now we are building a new research vessel for the Australian government and looking forward to cooperation with shipyards and research institutes in Russia.
Over the past ten years, about 100 million new jobs have been created in the blue economy. About 50% of the fish consumed in the world comes from the Arctic Ocean. Tourism and aquaculture in the Northern seas are projected to double by 2023. Fishing is the backbone of the blue economy, and failure to take urgent action to combat ocean pollution poses a threat to sustainable development. The world’s population is growing, and additional billions of people will have to be fed by 2050. We record climate change and land erosion, changing habitats of marine animals and fish. The World Wildlife Fund has conducted a study according to which the Arctic Ocean and its coasts are home to 34 species of mammals, 364 species of birds and 4 million people belonging to national minorities and small peoples. The world’s oceans are a concentration of resources that need to be preserved so they could be used by future generations, and it is time to develop common international approaches to their exploration.
Digital technologies can improve the efficiency of the fishing industry and, therefore, make the use of resources more rational. 50% of the world’s fish consumption is produced in fisheries, the aquaculture industry in developed countries is totally equipped with sensors. This is not the case in Russia and therefore, there are low productivity and heavy losses in output. We have launched a pilot project in Primorsky Krai, acting as an integrator: we took the world’s best solutions and provided coverage. As world practice shows, economic indicators in digitalized fisheries are improving by 20-30% compared to those where there are no digital components. You can develop the direction further with AI. In addition, the commercial data that the fisheries will receive can also be used for environmental monitoring or scientific purposes. There is a term ‘Internet of things’. There is much space for it in the ocean, and it will yield direct benefits.
Serious efforts are underway around the world to reduce the impact of maritime transport on the environment, a number of long-standing international conventions have been adopted. It all started out with oil spill problems, which were regulated by law, then the waste disposal problems were resolved, and in recent years the focus has been shifting towards monitoring of marine fuel and its impact on the environment. Most of the UN countries have now adopted a convention, according to which the use of high-sulfur fuel on ships is prohibited since 2020. Russia has ratified the convention, and now all shipping companies are waiting for next year with horror, fearing whether there will be enough low-sulfur fuel, whether it will be possible to bunker in all ports and what the price of the issue will be. With scrubbers installed, there is a problem of waste disposal.
Gaseous motor fuel, which is increasingly used by shipping companies, can be called a promising marine fuel. It is expected that LNG-powered vessels will occupy up to 20% of the market by 2035, but in this case a number of issues have to be addressed. First, we need engines adapted to operate on LNG, and the LNG vessels themselves are 20% more expensive than ships running on classical fuel. The second issue is the availability of LNG bunkering points. Large companies are already working on developing such a network. Thirdly, coastal States should support shipowners’ transition to alternative fuels.
Russia has launched a research fleet modernization program, according to which two new research vessels will be built by 2024, and five of the nine in-service ones will be upgraded and retrofitted. The oceans contain both mineral resources and enormous biological resources that may contribute to meeting all the global food challenges. It is beyond the capacity of any single country to study the entire ecosystem of the ocean. Joint efforts are needed, but when you have something to share, the national interests come in. The greater the contribution of the State to the study of the ocean, the greater its share in it. We are talking about fish, hydrocarbon and other resources. Cobalt reserves in the ocean are six times greater than on land, and there are huge accumulations of rare earth elements. There are already such terms as underwater engineering and underwater robotics, without them it is impossible to develop resources. Countries compete in technology, in obtaining licenses for those areas of the ocean floor that are most promising. It is impossible to develop the ocean alone, we need to join efforts, but the national interests will always come in.