SeaAhead's Bluetech Predictions for 2019

As 2018 draws to a close, we’ve reached out to SeaAhead’s extended family of industry luminaries and staff to look into their crystal ball and offer prognostications about what will be the biggest story (or stories) in Bluetech in 2019.

All of us here at SeaAhead would like to wish you a happy and prosperous 2019. We’ve got big plans for the coming year and we’re excited to see where the industry is headed next.


Climate Change Pressing in the Maritime Ecosystem

Steffen Knodt, Director Digital Ventures, Wärtsilä

The recent COP24 in Katowice with its global climate agreement was a big step towards achieving the ambitions set in the Paris Agreement - another milestone on the way towards a sustainable global climate policy. In 2019, actions need to follow, and industry efforts must be accelerated. The oceans have an essential role for our climate, so the maritime industry needs to join forces to have the needed impact on climate change. Therefore in 2019, there will be a focus on decarbonization to reduce the total annual greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 - creating as well new opportunities through both technological and business model innovation. Such an ambitious goal can only be achieved together, so in the upcoming year the maritime industry will find new ways to work across the entire ocean and maritime ecosystem. At Wärtsilä we call it “An Oceanic Awakening.”


Cultured Shellfish Will Continue Rapid Growth

Bob Rheault, Executive Director, East Coast Shellfish Growers Association

Cultured shellfish are perhaps the most sustainable source of seafood on the planet. We use no feeds, fertilizers, pesticides or antibiotics. Shellfish improve water clarity and quality because they feed by filtering the water, mitigating coastal eutrophication by removing nitrogen, while providing excellent habitat.

On the East Coast we have over 1500 farms that harvest over $160M in cultured shellfish, providing thousands of green jobs in rural communities. In the past five years oyster production has doubled as consumers recognize that cultured shellfish are delicious and safe to eat. We expect continued rapid growth in production (and hopefully demand). Warming trends will continue to expand the range northward for certain parasites and predators. More growers will be wiped out by hurricanes and super storms, but they will replant and start over. New lease applicants will continue to face opposition from waterfront homeowners who don't want to look at them.


Ocean Sustainability Comes to the Fore

Mark Huang, Co-Founder & Managing Director, SeaAhead

Countries, institutions, and citizens from around the world will take an increasing interest (and concern) in the health and future of the world’s oceans in 2019. Just as polar bears have come to symbolize the challenges posed by climate change, plastic straws now evoke the pressing issue of ocean sustainability. The EU’s recent Bluetech mandate is an example of how increased public concern has the power to transform collective problems into policy. But perhaps more powerful in the long term than policy alone, I believe this is the year that global consumers will start to vote with their wallets, and demand that products and services they use have a lower impact on the ocean ecosystem.


Industry Players Partner More With Startups

Alissa Peterson, Co-Founder & Managing Director, SeaAhead

In 2019, we are going to see a growth in the industrial partnerships with Bluetech startups as companies in the space realize how much innovation is happening outside the traditional players — including areas like autonomy and digitization. We are also going to start seeing the results of the hard work that the northeast has been putting in to seed offshore wind in the US through the growth in the companies that will make up the supply chain. There will be a greater flow of ideas and companies coming from Europe to enable this new sector. 


The Global Maritime Industry Faces a Sea Change

Kathy Metcalf, President and CEO, Chamber of Shipping of America

The global shipping industry is in the midst of dynamic changes in ship design and construction as well as operational requirements.  New requirements for polar shipping, developing technologies related to navigation and communications systems, implementation of the ballast water convention, the impending 2020 global sulfur cap, and continuing discussions on greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping represent an ever growing list of challenges, most of which will be solved only with the development of new technologies and products.  While most of us find comfort in the status quo, the demands on shipping from these challenges requires a global surge in maritime related research and development in a variety of areas including marine propulsion systems, zero carbon fuels and development of land-based infrastructure to support the global marine fuel distribution needs.  Needless to say, the future represents a sea change for the global maritime industry.


Digital-Twins for the Ocean

David Kring, VP Science & Technology, Navatek LLC

A significant trend going forward in 2019 will be in research and development of Digital Twins for maritime systems. We’ve already seen the emergence of this concept in industrial engineering, aerospace, and automotive fields, but it’s still a “wild west” for the ocean. Key maritime firms in both the commercial sector, such as Rolls-Royce, Maersk, and DNV-GL, and in the research sector, such as Navatek, are moving forward with significant new programs this year.

The digital-twin concept, and the related IoT (Internet of Things), tightly integrates software with hardware at the component and network levels. This coupling of machines, sensors, and actuators with firmware, network software, and real-time computational physics enables improved autonomous control of machinery and electrical grids. A combination of first-principle physical models and machine learning identifies emergent behavior and leads to autonomous, AI-based, responses that reduce maintenance, provide resiliency, and improve efficiency of operations. This also has implications for improved cyber-physical security.

This new approach will lead to “self-healing” systems offshore. One of the main challenges of operating ships or offshore installations at sea has been the need to transport humans for maintenance and repair. Digital-Twins promise to reduce the mean-time-between failures of maritime systems, which will open up important new economic opportunities in our oceans.


Challenges in Carbon Reduction, Safety, and Efficiency for Shipping Tech

Carleen Lyden Walker, Executive Director, North American Marine Environment Protection Association

Using my cloudy crystal ball, I see two important themes for BlueTech: movement towards zero carbon emissions and a need to specifically target how technology will enable the maritime industry to be safer and more efficient.  The only tech that will gain traction in the commercial world needs to demonstrate RELEVANCE, not just a transfer from terrestrial applications.  Shipping is being inundated with proposals— ocean tech will have to prove its “value add”


Seafood Consumption Continues Expansion

Mark Zieff, Marketing Director, Blue Harvest Fisheries

One of the big stories I believe for 2019 will be the continued growth of seafood consumption in the U.S.

As reported by National Fisheries Institute (NFI) in their annual Top Ten List, American’s ate 16 pounds of seafood per capita in 2017, an increase of 1.1 pounds from the 14.9 pounds consumed in 2016. That’s the highest level of consumption in more than a decade.

Though an increase in total pounds consumed is important, the bigger story may be the growth in variety of species consumed. Last year the top ten species accounted for 90% of all the seafood Americans ate. This year they make up only 84%. So while there’s growth among the most popular species, American’s are exploring other types of seafood.

This is good news for both the seafood industry and consumers. Seafood is one of the least consumed proteins in the U.S. and most Americans are not meeting Federal dietary guidelines that recommend eating at least two servings or 8 ounces of fish and shellfish per week

SeaAhead Team