Leaf boat sailing in the ocean

World Maritime Day

By 28.09.16

By Dr Bev Mackenzie, Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) @OceanBev

On the 29th September, we will be celebrating World Maritime Day with the theme of “Shipping: indispensable to the world”. World Maritime Day was first held in 1978 to mark 20 years since the establishment of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating international shipping.

At that time, the IMO had 21 member States. It now has 167 member States, including virtually all nations with an interest in maritime affairs – those involved in the shipping industry and coastal states with an interest in protecting their maritime environment. This growth is an encouraging indicator of how the importance of the ocean has risen on the political and public agenda.

This year’s theme “Shipping: indispensable to the world”, was chosen to focus on the critical link between shipping and humanity and to raise awareness of the relevance of the role of IMO. The importance of shipping to support and sustain today’s global society gives IMO’s work a significance that reaches far beyond the industry itself.

There is often a misconception that shipping and science are not easily interrelated and that in fact “science”, in particular environmental science, stands at odds with shipping, which is often perceived as a dirty and polluting industry.

However, as our understanding of both the importance of the oceans and seas and of protecting them and the resources within them improves, so does the desire to see them used safely and sustainably. It is here that science supports shipping and shipping supports science.

Shipping supporting science

If you find yourself lucky enough to be sailing from Piraeus to Heraklion on the Olympic Champion you’ll unknowingly be part of a scientific research cruise (CPD points anyone?). The vessel forms part of a programme to collect vital information about the Mediterranean Sea by carrying a Ferrybox- an automated package of sensors and analysers which collect data on temperature, salinity and a variety of other water properties.

Commercial or research vessels that collect this sort of evidence (“Ships of Opportunity”) play a vital role in supporting marine science. From the early voyages of the HMS Endeavour, used on Cook’s first expedition (1769-71), ships remain the primary method of conducting oceanographic research, both through direct observation as well as deployment of autonomous vehicles and installations.

Science supporting shipping

There are countless ways in which science supports the shipping industry. Without hydrography, the applied science which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans, seas, coastal areas, there would be no safety of navigation, no nautical charts and no understanding of the boundaries between the open seas and the waters belonging to nations. Without biology there would be no understanding of how to protect ships from the detrimental effects of fouling, or to protect the environment from those same effects. Without chemistry, there would be no understanding of how to improve fuel oils to make them better for a ship’s engine or how to ensure they are less polluting to both the oceans and atmosphere. The list goes on….

As the only multidisciplinary professional body dedicated to oceans and seas, the IMarEST sees itself as playing a vital and unmatched role in bringing together scientists, engineers, technologists and regulators. It supports and develops them to be the best in the industry through professional qualifications such as becoming Chartered and is a centre of knowledge exchange, creation and distribution internationally.

About IMarEST

The IMarEST is an international membership body and learned society that brings marine engineers, scientists and technologists together into one professional body. The largest marine organisation of its kind, it spans 128 countries and works to promote the scientific development of marine disciplines, providing opportunities for the exchange of ideas and practices and upholding the status, standards and expertise of marine professionals worldwide.
Members are able to gain professional registration (such as Technician, Incorporated, Registered or Chartered status). Education is supported through the MLA, a subsidiary of the IMarEST Group that delivers distance e-learning.

The IMarEST is an NGO with consultative status at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), observer status at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, International Hydrographic Organization, the London Convention/London Protocol (LC/LP) and the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) and it has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).

About the author

Dr Bev Mackenzie is the Technical and Policy Director at the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology with responsibility for coordinating and managing the technical activities for the IMarEST membership; a role which incorporates providing opportunities for the exchange of ideas and practices and opportunities to influence the development of policy and legislation at local, regional and global levels.

With a background in chemical and physical oceanography, Dr Mackenzie now specialises in the science and engineering policy interface with particular expertise in operational oceanography and ocean observing and issues relating to shipping and the environment.

She is the associate editor of the Journal of Operational Oceanography, a member of the Marine Industries Liaison Group (MILG), head of the IMarEST delegation to the IOC and is a member of the IMarEST delegation to the International Maritime Organization and a member of the Science Council Board of Trustees. Dr Mackenzie is currently involved in developing activities for women in marine STEM and for early career professions.