Seas and oceans can provide solutions to 'societal challenges'

Despite its small population, Norway has a vast ocean and is an important player in the EU's maritime policies, explains Dilek Ayhan

By Dilek Ayhan

14 May 2014

Norway is a country with a small population, located in the far northern corner of Europe. However, the ocean area of Norway is vast, and in terms of living marine resources, it is among the most productive in the world. The seabed of these oceans contains large, but finite, resources of oil and gas. These offshore activities together with the maritime and marine sectors represent the backbone of our economy, and one of the areas where Norwegian competence excels is within the maritime sector. Norwegian shipping companies, yards, equipment manufacturers, fisheries and aquaculture and maritime services suppliers are world-leading in the advanced and technology driven segments of the industry.

Norway is not a member of the European Union, but still part of the internal market through the European economic area agreement. Our maritime industries are an integrated part of the wider European maritime industries cluster, and we have been involved in the development of the maritime policy of the European Union.

"Oceans have no boundaries and have great value for humankind"

Oceans have no boundaries and have great value for humankind. They provide us with natural resources, ecosystem services through the provision of biodiversity and transport opportunities. In addition, it adds to our quality of life by providing areas of natural beauty where there is peace to rest our minds.

We must harvest the opportunities for new and continued blue growth. The oceans are important for food production, for finding new mineral sources and renewable energy, and maybe we can also find the solutions to cancer in our seas and oceans. With the ice melt, the opportunities for the maritime industry in the Arctic are many. In particular, we expect that offshore activities and destination transport will represent promising opportunities for the shipping industry. Coastal regions already account for 40 per cent of the gross domestic product of Europe, but I think the future holds the promise for new blue growth in Europe.

But the challenges in our oceans are also substantial and, in fact, the opportunities and challenges are closely interlinked, and need to be addressed in a coherent manner.

The consequences of climate change, the sound management of the ocean ecosystem, the environmental status of our oceans and the health benefits of eating seafood are real challenges that need to be addressed.

The great potential of our seas and oceans require great responsibility, and so therefore the management of our seas and oceans needs to be based on sound science and international cooperation. Improving the understanding of causes and effects in these systems is so demanding that it calls for concerted efforts to the benefit of us all. Therefore, a sustainable use of seas and oceans will only be successful if conducted within the framework of European and international cooperation.

It is impossible for one nation to develop all the necessary knowledge in these fields alone.

We appreciate the EU's new Horizon 2020 framework programme, where the marine and maritime area remains an important topic of research. The Norwegian government has decided that we will be part of this programme. Norway also supports and takes an active role in the joint programming initiative (JPI) on healthy and productive seas and oceans. JPI oceans can provide a critical mass to solve societal challenges, avoid duplication, fill gaps, and facilitate the sharing of infrastructure and research data.

"We must seize new opportunities for continued and sustainable blue growth built on sound science and concerted efforts"

I would argue that in times of crisis, as we have seen in the world economy during the past few years, it is even more important to build arenas for concerted research efforts. Access to modern maritime research infrastructure is important for providing world leading maritime research in Europe, and in order to realise the great potential that is in our oceans.

Governments and European institutions must contribute by providing the necessary regulatory framework, as well as adequate funding for projects. In Norway, we are considering the development of a new centre for maritime research and education – the ocean space centre – in Trondheim. The project will support the objectives of Horizon 2020, and increase the volume and quality of research, development and innovation in ocean space technology in Europe.

We must seize new opportunities for continued and sustainable blue growth built on sound science and concerted efforts. The European maritime day and EU strategy for an integrated marine and maritime policy are timely. They put wealth creation through our seas and oceans at their heart while at the same time addressing challenges we are facing due to pollution, overexploitation of our seas and ocean and climate change. All of which is of high importance to our maritime industry, policymakers, and society at large.

We can only succeed in this important endeavour, and, as such, I am honoured to take part in the European maritime day conference.


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