Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 39

Supplementary submission from IMarEST


  From an international perspective it is our opinion that there is a relatively healthy on-going dialogue between the international offshore oil & gas industry and those in the UK involved in marine science and technology. This includes Institutes and government organisations, as well as commercial contractors.

  In the absence of another forum (eg UKOOA), this dialogue is coordinated by the Metocean Committee of the International Oil & Gas Producers (OGP). This committee meets twice per year once in the USA and once in Europe. When the committee meets in the UK, Institute and contractor representatives from the UK and internationally are regularly invited to give presentations, and to discuss how the committee members can work together on common goals where this would be appropriate. Also these organisations are invited to participate in OGP initiated workshops, seminars etc. This has led to various projects with OGP members, either involving individual OGP members or together in Joint Industry Projects (JIPs). The focus is on international co-operation, making the best use of organisations (both Institutes and contractors) from different countries with the best tools and expertise for the task in hand. These JIPs are funded from various sources including the O&G industry and the EC.

  The dialogue can always be improved. Understanding of the O&G industry needs for marine science and technology is sometimes mixed in the UK. Compared to other countries the interaction is less close. Perhaps some changes in attitude are necessary with more open interaction and cooperation, and more adaptation to the business needs. Examples from the metocean perspective include more user involvement in the specification of satellite monitoring programmes and more involvement in the assessment of the potential impact of Climate Change. Both of these topics are on the radar screen of the OGP metocean committee.

  Marine science that is undertaken by private sector is primarily in support of the offshore oil and gas sector and renewable energy. Offshore work relating to other marine interests generally resides with academia and government agencies, and this position is unlikely to change whilst the bulk of funding for this type of work comes from government departments such as DEFRA. Much of the work could be undertaken by the private sector, which could possibly provide a more cost effective solution whilst maintaining or improving the scientific standards. Similarly academia could also provide greater input into the work commissioned by the Government departments. It is suggested that the effort required to secure government work is not commensurate with the potential reward due to the advantages, in terms of data access, proximity to clients, etc. that are maintained by bodies such as CEFAS.

  Some areas of hope are provided, for example the provision of real time metocean data by the oil industry to forecasters offers an excellent demonstration of how integrated data solutions may work to benefit all sectors through improved forecasts.

  A more balanced scenario exists nearshore, mainly due to the greater number of users of the marine environment in this geography. A mixture of public, private and academic bodies undertakes science in this sector. Due to the accessibility of this geography data collection is cheaper and generally more science is undertaken. The quality of science varies, with certain sectors undertaking the minimum to achieve legislation or due diligence to secure commercial funding, whereas others recognise the benefit of greater scientific knowledge and the positive impact it can make on their business activity. It is suggested that former is due to lack of knowledge and that education of such sectors would grow with the implementation of the Marine Bill and the requirement to provide evidence based on sound marine science. Greater data availability permitting multiple uses of the same data set would also decrease the cost to these sectors, which may then fund science on existing data sets.

  The number of high quality courses available to physical oceanographers is severely limited. Additionally the role of applied oceanography in under-graduate courses is generally ignored. The private sector provides significant export value in the Marine Science sector. To maintain the health of this capability UK industry must maintain its cutting edge science as routine tasks can be undertaken cheaper by many overseas countries. The present R&D tax breaks may help to do this, but also greater technology transfer from Government funded research, eg through NERC, is also required.

  Some coordination of Marine Science is poor. A simple example is the Environment Agencies tide gauge network. The Agency has approximately 300 tide gauges around the UK coast, often with different departments funding and maintaining gauges at similar locations. When considered with Harbour and Port authority tide gauges a comprehensive network could be implemented at probably lower cost with greater accuracy, dissemination and benefit to the general public and industry.

  The Marine Bill white paper demonstrates the effectiveness of the overall coordination of activities relating to Marine Science. Within the paper the Marine Data Information Partnership (MDIP) appears to be considered as a permanent body that is appropriately funded, that could undertake some of the data storage and dissemination that will be required by the Marine Bill. In reality MDIP is a 2-year project coordinated by IACMST, with a single permanent member of staff. It is grossly underfunded and relies on the goodwill of industry, government agencies and academia.


  The information provided represents the views of the IMarEST Technical Affairs Committee and not necessarily the views of the IMarEST membership as a whole.

  The IMarEST Marine Voices campaign provides the platform of opportunity for professionals to discuss and exchange ideas and practices, and promotes the scientific development of marine engineering, science and technology

May 2007

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