An underwater-vehicles program at the School of Ocean Technology (SOT), which has an underwater-imaging system that will provide real-time 3D viewing without headgear—believed to be the first such system in the world—is gearing up for a commercial pilot in the first quarter of 2014.

Whitecap Scientific Inc. of St. John’s used the facilities at the Marine Institute’s Holyrood Marine Base in June of 2013 to confirm that its ROV3D system works in operational conditions. “They have the resources ready to go—expert staff, the facilities we need, and good research,” says co-founder Sam Bromley. “It wouldn’t have been nearly as viable and timely anywhere else. Arranging everything ourselves would have been a nightmare.”

Holyrood Marine Base is an axis in the Marine Institute’s powerhouse of applied technology, education, and training centres. The Marine Institute is a key element in the St. John’s ocean-technology cluster, which New York-based Marine Technology Reporter has recognized as “an international epicenter of marine technology.”

Located at Holyrood, N.L., the Centre for Applied Ocean Technology (CTec) collaborates with companies on applied research in ocean mapping, ocean-observing systems, ocean instrumentation, and underwater intervention. For example, collaborating with the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, CTec developed a real-time sensor-based system that monitors temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and other variables in the water in aquaculture cages, facilitating fish farmers’ management of operations through remote access. The Aquaculture Real-Time Integrated Environmental System (ARIES) is currently operating at Cold Ocean Salmon (owned by Cooke Aquaculture Inc.), Northern Harvest Sea Farms, and Nova Fish  Farms Inc. sites in southern Newfoundland.

The harsh marine environment surrounding this island in the cold and windy North Atlantic, and the need to make a living from fisheries, offshore oil, and other maritime-based commerce, have pushed Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to overcome weather-related obstacles. Assisted by strong research and educational infrastructure, they have developed world-class expertise in ocean technology innovation, education, and training.

The Centre for Marine Simulation (CMS) is a centre of excellence that solves clients’ toughest simulation problems, ranging from ship manoeuvring to port-design evaluation, while also providing specialized training to industry. For example, in order to offer a local training option for shuttle-tanker operators on Canada’s East Coast, the centre developed a three-day Dynamic Positioning and Offshore Loading course where shuttle-tanker operators can practice moving into an offshore oil field and hooking up for loading using dynamic positioning technology and its full motion ships bridge, in a simulated environment.

The centre is also equipped with a variety of equipment including a tugboat, engine room, ballast control, and remotely operated vehicle simulators. Simulations of extreme weather conditions and sea states enable vessel manufacturers to test their designs, whereas human researchers use the facilities to learn how people behave under stressful circumstances at sea.

The Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources’ (CSAR) flume tank—with its sophisticated video recording, computer software, sensor equipment, and specialized features—is unique in Canada, and one of the most fully equipped and largest flume tanks in the world. Companies use this tank, which measures 22 metres long by eight metres wide by four metres deep, to test prototype fishing-gear designs and the designs of barges, offshore structures such as spar rigs, and autonomous underwater vehicles.

Among CSAR’s innovations was the research and development of methods to reduce ghost fishing of lost snow-crab pots. The centre evaluated the performance of several biodegradable twines that would disable a pot in the event that it’s lost at sea. In 2013 Fisheries and Oceans Canada made the innovation a mandatory requirement for harvesters in the province, affecting 1.2 million pots in circulation.

An underwater-vehicles program at the School of Ocean Technology (SOT), which hasattracted more than 100 students as remotely operated vehicle (ROV) technicians, is unique in North America. Students learn how to fly ROVs both in the flume tank and at Holyrood and how to maintain them. “I’d like to see a network of academic institutions around the world training to the same standard,” says SOT head Dwight Howse, adding that he is currently in discussions with educational institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Brazil to establish similar programs. The school also provides training in ocean instrumentation and ocean observation. Fresh out of high school, ocean-mapping students learn how to map the sea floor on board the M/V Anne S. Pierce, a former scallop dragger that is the Marine Institute’s 29-metre research-and-training vessel.

Behind the scenes, the Office of Research and Development works with researchers to identify marine research opportunities, accesses R&D funding, engage student researchers, and build research teams within Memorial University and the broader community. Contract research projects at CTec, CMS, and CSAR in 2012–13 totalled $4.3 million. The total for all of the Marine Institute’s applied research centres was $9.5 million.

In addition to their day jobs, Howse and Randy Gillespie, the director of the Centre for Applied Ocean Technology, are busy preparing for the MTS/IEEE Oceans 2014 conference, in which an estimated 1,200 oceans professionals from around the world will visit St. John’s in September. Howse is the general chair and Gillespie is the technical co-chair of the 2014 local organizing committee.

According to Vision 2020, the Marine Institute’s strategic plan to become a world oceans institute by setting standards for education, training, innovation, and research by 2020 will put it in the company of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

One of the short-term steps toward Vision 2020 is to build further capacity at Holyrood by adding a breakwater and a marginal wharf to further support the testing of technology products and training in their use. In the meantime, companies such as Whitecap Scientific are busy testing and refining their innovations in Holyrood Bay, just half an hour outside St. John’s, and preparing them for market.

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