A new study into safety at sea is taking off as part of a partnership between Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Wageningen University & Research and TNO. Half a million pounds (565,000 €) is the amount scientists have at their disposal to investigate safety aspects of combined activities at sea. Focus is on seaweed production in combination with renewable energy production: producing not only food but also feed, bio-chemicals, energy and other valuable products. The grant is awarded by the UK-based Lloyd’s Register Foundation, which wants to set up a novel project on the enhancement of resilient marine resources for tomorrow’s world population.
The project was purposefully set up to be multidisciplinary, as economic, environmental, marine, social and food aspects of safety need to be addressed to develop a comprehensive framework for a safety assessment of this combination of activities at sea. "As humans are using our oceans and seas more intensively, can different types of use be sustainably integrated in order to have a true multiple and safe use of our sea space? In the ’Safe production Of Marine plants and use of Ocean Space (SOMOS)’ project, a framework will be developed that will assist in developing this co-use of the seas, integrating different uses such as renewable energy production and novel food and feed production from seaweed, in a safe way by developing standards and safe operational practices. In this way, the project will address the global challenges of producing food, energy and efficient use of our waters to cater for the needs of the world population of 2050," explains Wageningen Research’s Project Leader, Dr Luc van Hoof.
The safety aspect in the project concerns six areas, among them feed and food safety hazards of marine production, safety of people and property at sea, marine interactions such as competition between alternative uses and cumulative effects such as pollution. Safety is at the core of Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s mission, and they want to enhance the development of safety standards and regulations on food within the maritime field.
Marian Stuiver, dissemination leader of the project, clarifies that the public understanding and impact of the project is of utmost importance to the funding body as well as all researchers in the project. “The aim is to translate vision into practical solutions. The project will deliver a practical framework with standards and skills as well as a set of so-called ‘recommended practices’. The framework will be developed in co-production with relevant authorities, certifiers and operators. This is done in order to enhance education and skills development within this growing community including, of course, engineers and scientists themselves.”
The project will deepen its understanding by means of two practical case studies in which multi-use and safety aspects will be examined. A choice will be made out of the following cases.
- The Gulf of Mexico is an intensively used sea basin with tourism, transport, fisheries, oil and gas. Stakeholders cultivating seaweed show interest in developing other maritime activities, most notable mining of mineral resources and renewable energy production.
- In Indonesia, seaweed farming is a major source of income to approximately 20,000 small farmers. In addition, there are various related on-land companies, such as traders and exporters. Indonesia already accounts for two-thirds of world production of red algae, and the ambition is to expand production of other species as well.
- The North Sea is one of the most crowded seas in the world and as such faces the challenge to find multi-use solutions. Moreover, different parties such as government and industry consider offshore production of seaweed a promising commercial activity in this area where many offshore wind farms are built: a clear opportunity for multi-use.
Lloyd’s Register Foundation
The Lloyd’s Register Foundation is a young UK charity set up in 2012 funded by the profits of their trading arm, the Lloyd’s Register Group Limited. “The critical infrastructure on which modern society relies is under increasing pressure to satisfy growing demand while innovating safely and protecting lives and the environment” explains Ruth Boumphrey, the Foundation’s Head of Research Grants. “With our mission to protect the safety of life and property and to advance transport and engineering education and research, LRF has an important role to play in meeting these challenges.”
The Lloyd’s Register Foundation has been strongly involved in the development of the project with Wageningen University & Research and will continue to provide feedback, as Vincent Doumeizel, Vice President Food, Beverage & Sustainability of the LR Group, will help steer the project by joining its Advisory Board. He comments: “This is the first project targeted at the food sector to be funded by the foundation, and I am honoured to be joining the advisory board. The current reliance on meat and soya has a significant impact on the environment and will become unsustainable as diets become richer. Marine plants could be a sustainable source of protein, fresh water and energy for the growing global population. It is exciting to be involved in research into viable alternatives.”