Oceans’14 was a resounding success. With more than 1,200 delegates and a total attendance of more than 1,700 including post secondary students, it was, according to a source inside City Hall, the largest industry-specific conference in the history of St. John’s. Staged at Mile One Stadium and the Delta Hotel, September 16-18, the conference was well attended and, according to many attendees, very well organized.
The chair of the organizing committee, Dwight Howse, head of the School of Ocean Technology, at the Marine Institute, was proud of the committee’s work. He embarked shortly after the conference for China on a related mission, but left several comments for the record. “Oceans’14 provided an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the incredible resources in this province, many of then within a few kilometres of each other such as the Marine Institute, MUN, and the NRC,” he said.
The theme is for the event was “Oceans—where challenge becomes opportunity,” explains Howse. “And that means opportunity commercially, scientifically, and technologically and how we can exploit those opportunities to our advantage. Among the technical streams covered by the conference was acoustics, underwater vehicles, instrumentation,” he said.
Jointly sponsored by MTS and IEEE this event has for 30 years been held twice annually, once in the Atlantic region and once in the Pacific region, usually in large international centres. “So this was quite a coup for us to pull this off,” said Howse. He said delegates were impressed with the calibre of the facilities and of the companies and technologies being developed here. “Nothing short of world class.”
The conference was also the occasion for at least one significant announcement as Terry Lindstrom, General Manager of NRC’s Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering portfolio launched the Marine Vehicles program on September 17 as part of the opening session of the conference. He said the MV program will focus on technologies and processes for finding economical and viable business based technological solutions to improve the safety and performance of marine vessels such as cargo ships and fuel tankers in the arctic. “The National Research Council has the expertise and tools to improve the performance and safety of marine vehicle and their operations. By working closely with industry, we will deliver innovative solutions for the marine market.”
In addition to a large trade show of more than 150 booths from some of the world’s largest ocean technology corporations and maritime nations such as Japan, the event also included a wide range of plenary sessions, tutorials on special interest topics and student programs. Dwight Howse praised the inclusion of students in the conference: “This focus on graduate and undergraduate students is important because we are including the future generation of scientist and engineers who will drive these technologies around the world. They also participate as volunteers and could choose to sit in on the presentation of any of the more than 400 papers. As they are beginning to map out their careers, they can see where research is headed,” he said.
Among the local entrepreneurs and innovators attending the conference was Judith Bobbitt, president of Oceans. She said her company has been, “investigating this resource for anti-acne, anti-cancer, wound-healing and other bio-activity to create a natural health industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. The investigation has led to positive results with clinical trials and preparation of patents in progress.” A big advantage of the conference for Bobbitt was the opportunity to meet first hand with suppliers and potential suppliers with whom she has dealt for years.
Howse believes this conference was a win for local ocean technology no matter how you look at it. “OCEANS ’14 was a tremendous success by every metric. The conference represents an ideal fit with the oceans technology aspects of the provincial economy and provided an opportunity to bring the world leading researchers and companies to our doorstep. I believe that the delegates left with a better appreciation of the local expertise and capacity that will ultimately lead to productive collaborations,” he said.