Sultanate all set to unlock potential of ocean economy

Muscat, Feb 11 – A conference that aims to identify new technologies in ocean economy and benefiting from them kicked off on Monday.
The first edition of the ‘Ocean Economy and Future Technology’ (OEFT) conference was held under the auspices of His Highness Sayyid Shihab bin Tareq al Said, Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan, and Chairman of The Research Council (TRC). Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, said in a statement after opening of the conference that participation of the world in this aspect is important and expressed hope that this positive step achieves its goals.

More than 80 speakers from 30 countries were in attendance at the meet, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with support from both government and private institutions, at Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre. It will run until February 13. Dr Abdul Latif bin Rashid al Zayani, GCC Secretary-General, lauded the developments witnessed by the Sultanate in all fields, especially in the areas of scientific research, youth development and economic advancement under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. He said the conference will focus on the economy of oceans and seas, science and technology and the use of diplomacy in science and economics.

It seeks to achieve many objectives of exploring the current and future sectors associated with ocean economy, sharing knowledge and international case studies and identifying priorities and standards for a sustainable ocean economy. The meet seeks to raise global awareness on ocean sustainability through science and technology diplomacy, highlight future technology and innovation in ocean economy and promote international cooperation in ocean economy. It targets workers in sectors related to oil and gas, renewable energy, mining, fisheries, future technology, aquaculture, marine logistics, manufacturing industries, academic, research and training institutes, food and pharmaceutical sectors, cosmetics and media institutions.

The conference will address topics such as aquaculture and fisheries “towards new processes and modern technologies” and ocean energy, including oil and gas technology, renewable energy, ocean depths, logistics and maritime transport. It will be accompanied by various events, including the Industry and Technology Exhibition, a workshop on Science and Policy Coherence, and a meeting of the International Network of Foreign Ministers’ Advisers on Science and Technology. Abdulsalam al Murshidi, Executive President of the State General Reserve Fund (SGRF), the largest sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate, said in his opening speech that the conference aims to facilitate collaboration and innovation across supply chains spanning the ocean economy.

“With a 3,000-km coastline, the Sultanate is well-positioned to explore economic opportunities linked to oceans. These opportunities include fisheries and aquaculture, ocean thermal energy, renewables, shipping and logistics, defence and security, offshore oil and gas, seabed mining, water desalination, pharmaceutical and food industries, and sports and tourism,” said Al Murshidi. Citing studies by the United Nations, he said the world’s oceans sustain the livelihoods of over three billion people through direct and indirect employment, while supporting countless coastal communities around the globe.

Oceans, he said, contribute $3 trillion to global economy, representing 5 per cent of global GDP, while supporting value-add activities that generate a further $1.5 trillion. Keynote speaker, Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, stated: “The ocean is teaching us an existential lesson of the immediacy of climate change challenge. I have no doubt that, coupled with the wind and sun, the ocean’s powerful forces can provide us with the renewable energy we seek. Besides conserving and sustainably using the ocean’s resource is the Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14), which calls for restoring humanity’s relationship with oceans to one of respect and balance.”

The opening session featured a panel discussion on ‘Ocean Economy and Science Diplomacy’, which was moderated by Paul Holthus, CEO, World Ocean Council. Sharing their thoughts as panelists were experts Sir Peter Gluckman, Chair, International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), who is also the President-Elect of International Science Council (ISC); Adm Muhammad Khorsheed, Head of Maritime Affairs Unit (MOFA), Bangladesh; Atsushi Sunami, President, Ocean Policy Research Institute (Sasakawa Peach Foundation); Prof Gunter Paul, author of Blue Economy; and Mustafa al Hinai, CEO of Oman Aviation Group. It was followed by a series of discussions focusing on following themes: ‘Ocean Economy and Ocean Sustainable Development’, ‘Digital Ocean and Ocean Data’, ‘Technology and Innovation’, and ‘Investing in the Ocean Economy’.Photos by Huda al Bahri