What skills will be required for this tech-driven ocean economy of 2030? On December 14th 2020 a mix of business and sustainability leaders convened to share their views as part of the latest World Ocean Innovation Insight Hour webinar, moderated by Hal Hodson, Asia technology correspondent, The Economist. The forward-looking conversation was supported by Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, the Province of Nova Scotia, Halifax Partnership and the Creative Destruction Lab.
“The industry needs to embrace the idea that artificial intelligence and machine learning is coming, and it is going to transform the industry,” said Don Scott, chief technology officer, Mayflower Autonomous Ship.
Technology and big-data analytics are helping to reduce the cost and risk of working in the ocean environment, allowing control of operations to be transferred to onshore centres. This means traditional maritime roles will increasingly be replaced with systems engineers, programmers and data analysts, which poses challenges for the industry.
“Coastal communities globally are already some of the most vulnerable, experiencing high levels of deprivation and extreme levels of migration of the younger generation out of the area [due to a lack of] job opportunities,” warned Dr Emma McKinley, research fellow, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Cardiff University. “These are places already quite vulnerable to change, and if we move to autonomise everything we risk losing traditional skills and the cultural identity and heritage of some of these coastal places.”
However, she added, there is an opportunity to think of the ocean economy in a different way from the historically industry-focused perspective. “We can look at it in a more inclusive and holistic way: how we can work with communities and involve them in decisions and the development of new industries, and look for the skills gaps, and support capacity-building, training and innovation.”