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Thursday, November 15, 2018

World Ocean Council’s first Sustainable Ocean Summit

The World Ocean Council, a relatively new organisation championed and run almost single-handedly by Paul Holthus, ( and supported by its nearly 20 founding member companies and organisations, held its inaugural event in Belfast this week. The Sustainable Ocean Summit brought together over 100 delegates from a diverse range of interests from users of marine space and resources, to administrators and others with concerns on “the health of the ocean” under the theme of “Reducing Risk, Increasing Sustainability: Solutions through Collaboration”.


Overall, there was a recognition of industry’s obligations and expecations, and also of the need for practical legislation.


Those attending included representatives from diverse industry user groups – such as shipping, oil and gas, mineral mining, fishing, aquaculture, dredging, leisure, diving, renewable energies, and carbon capture, governance bodies and agencies – international, regional and local - scientists and researchers, environmental organisations and a variety of educators, trainers and academicians.


The first plenary session provided the opportunity for many of the Ocean Industry Association Leaders to discuss pressing ocean sustainability issues and the opportunities for, and value of, cooperation as well as the barriers and constraints to collaboration and the means of overcoming these.


Thereafter the Conference consisted of 15 sessions covering a very wide range of subjects:

  • International ocean policies
  • Seafood and seafood security
  • Ports, coastal waterways and dredging
  • Renewable energies in marine space
  • Marine ecosystem services and climate change
  • Arctic marine ecosystems
  • Climate change and ocean use
  • Invasive species and biosecurity
  • Regional ocean industry aliances
  • Ocean industries and science
  • Environmental education and training
  • Ocean environmental risks
  • Marine mammals and industry interactions
  • Vessels and structures and environmental quality and protection
  • Marine debris.


Before the concluding plenary session the Conference covered media and public relations and methods to improve the understanding of ocean industries.


Common themes throughout the plenary session included:


  • The ocean industries routinely referring to their recognition of the obligations and expectations placed on them to maintain their social and political licences to operate;
  • The need for “smart”, practical legislation;
  • The importance of ensuring “profitable” activities if industries are to uphold corporate ocean responsibility;
  • The integrated commitment of industries, companies and people,
  • The interdependence of the many ocean interests and the importance of partnerships - ranging from the adequacy of reception facilities to the quality of service providers, harmonised legislation and more.


This latter aspect of partnerships led to considerable discussion on cross-sectoral cooperation as delegates explored the potential for future collaborative activity – issue identification, opportunities, sharing of information, accumulating data, best practices, solutions, communications, etc.


It is probably too early to conclude on the real value of bringing such diverse groups and interests together, notwithstanding their common concerns for the future well-being of the world’s oceans. For many delegates and organisations there are clearly both horizontal and vertical synergies with several of the parties involved, while the interactions and value of assembling the full matrix of interests are less obvious.


A handful of INTERTANKO’s Members and Associate Members have already signalled their support for the World Ocean Council. Others have opted for a wait and see policy to understand better whether the aspirations and ambitions of the founders and the laudable goals of sharing ocean environmental challenges and identifying ocean sustainability priorities to shape and create solutions will deliver realistic outcomes and tangible benefits.


INTERTANKO was represented at the Conference by Managing Director Dr Peter Swift.


The formal conclusions and copies of most of the presentations will be available at a later date.


To view the official press release click here


Contact: Peter Swift