William H. Avery, Johns Hopkins University (ret.); Joseph Vadus, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Andrew Trenka, PICHTR and
Patrick Takahashi, University of Hawaii U.S.A.
The end of the Cold War has caused national priorities to be reviewed and readjusted. Military expenditures and space ventures have been downsized and replaced by civilian programs to enhance productivity and advance technical innovations. Technologies that can insure energy supplies that will be environmentally benign are beginning to gain favorable consideration. The ocean is looming as the net frontier for economic development, and is being discussed as the possible solution to global climate change and other environmental problems.
A National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration strategic planning meeting held in June of 1992 on "Ocean Resources 2000" brought together 35 specialists from the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific communities to discuss the role that the ocean might play in strengthening our industrial base and improving international trade. The panelists recommended:
- Congressional ocean hearings to steer the Nation into the 21st Century;
- Identification of a lead agency for ocean development and management within the Department of Commerce;
- Establishment of an industry led organization such as the National Ocean Resource Technology Corporation to stimulate the development of major ocean projects;
- and A wide spectrum of applications based on ocean platforms to serve as fuel sources, waste treatment facilities, floating airports, environmental observatories and ocean ranches.
Defense applications of floating plants were also discussed to address shifting national strategic interests in reaction to changing world crises. Mobile military bases were expected to gain increasing attention. The U.S. Navy since then has commissioned a study to assess these needs and the United Nations is considering peacekeeping stations in sensitive locations.
Japan, in particular, has formed a strong industrial alliance, the Floating Structures Association, involving more than 100 major corporations, including five banks. The group has advanced eight concepts.
The paper reviews the history, state of the technology, industrial opportunities and environmental implications afforded by Ocean resource plantships.