Engineering ocean solutions

September 21, 2022
By Andrew Outhwaite

Looking out over the ocean at Leighton recently, I was surprised by the variety of ways people were enjoying the waves. Ten years ago it may have just been swimmers, surfers and windsurfers.

But in 2022 there were also kite surfers, stand up paddle boards, jet skis, foil boards (some with electric propulsion) and even wing foils.

It felt like the future had already arrived.

This was the subject I covered, from a slightly more professional point of view, during the recent Set the Month in Motion podcast with the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce.

During that chat with Chief Exec Danicia Quinlan, I predicted that the ocean will look radically different in the near future.

One, because of environmental factors such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, stormification and the need to continue to decarbonise.

Some predictions

And two, because of the impact of new technologies such as robotics, autonomous vessels and even new habitats such as island states and arks.

Looking out into that future ocean, we should expect to see large scale wind farms, seaweed and aquaculture operations, artificial reefs, more autonomous vehicles and drones, and different types of vessels.

My fellow guests on the podcast outlined just what those vessels may look like.

Joshua Portlock, Electro Nautic CEO, is working on hydrofoils – which is relatively old tech – combined with modern electric propulsion systems and software to create a new generation of personal watercraft.

And Chris Blackwell, from Echo Marine Group, is thinking deeply about different hull configurations and propulsion systems to reduce fuel consumption and increase performance.

The need to adapt


Of course, many of the technologies already exist, but are either used in separate marine sectors, or on land by terrestrial operators.

That’s why we’re convening the Edge event (6th October 2022 in Cockburn, WA) to bring together leading ocean engineering solutions.

For example, subsea robotics and autonomy have had provided some real insights to people working in offshore wave technology.

It’s also relevant to people working in more efficient ferry designs and hull designs.

There is also overlap with AI-driven software to schedule and organise maintenance on equipment, typically for large mining operations, but it could be just as relevant for those who maintain ocean-going vessels.

So getting people to ‘peek over the fence’ to see what’s happening in other sectors and other companies can provide valuable moments of convergence and insight.

And it can really build confidence in the marine sector to attract more investment and talent.

After all, our sector is in competition with other industries for a limited pool of money, investment and talent, particularly in boom town WA.

I hope you have a few minutes to listen to the wider discussion over at the Set the Month in Motion podcast and I hope to see you at Edge: Ocean Engineering Solutions.

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