The Ocean – the new space

We know more about the surface of the Moon than we do about the seabed.

October 11th 30 girl geeks and guys were gathered for an evening at host Trondheim Havn IKS to learn more about the technology of the ocean, both above, below and on the surface. 


Limited knowledge

Did you know that water covers 70% of the earth’s surface? But still, we have little knowledge of what happens under the seabed. We actually know more about the moon then we do about the ocean!

Climate change and population growth force new ways of thinking about sea and ocean resources, both for transport, food, and environment. Norway and especially Trondheim is world leading in our research on ocean technology, and in 2016 the Fjord of Trondheim was established as the first testbed for autonomous ships. Which new possibilities does this tech give us? How will it impact the future of the maritime industry, shipping, and the environment?

We kicked of the evening with an introduction by girl geek and host for the evening, Runa Skarbø. The ocean comprises 97 % of the water on Earth and is on average 4000 meters deep.  We know around 200 000 species today, but that is estimated to be only 10 % of the total number of species present in the ocean. It is claimed that only 5 % of the sea is discovered. However, more exploration and discoveries are not always pleasant.

Large parts of the Great Barrier Reef, of which David Attenborough made an excellent VR production while visiting, is now pronounced dead due to heating of the ocean.

Endless possibilities with new technology

Population growth, climate changes, consumer habits and competition both in the retail and transportation business are huge drivers behind the ongoing technology race in the maritime industry. Terje Meisler, the Maritime Manager at Trondheim Port Authority,  gave us an introduction to the shipping industry, and why technological innovation is necessary for the future maritime sector. Despite the fact that Trondheim Port Authority is operating relative small ports on the global scale, Trondheim Port Authority is on the forefront when it comes to innovation and unmanned shipping technology, facilitating the world´s first designated test area for unmanned vessels. Some of the current projects Trondheim Port Authority are engaged in are autonomous shipping of containers, lumber and gravel and remote-controlled passenger ferries. For more info:

Beate Kvamstad-Lervold, Head of Research at SINTEF Ocean, talked about Shipping 4.0. Everyone is talking about the fourth industrial revolution, how will these technologies affect the shipping industry, she asked. Looking back we see the revolutions in the shipping industries summarized as:

  • In the 1800s: Mechanized power and damp boats
  • the 1900’s: Mass production
  • the 1970s: Computerized control
  • And now: 2010´s: Shipping 4.0 – you heard it first in Trondheim

Still, there is not much Wi-Fi out in the ocean, how do you communicate from land to sea? New technologies like IoT and AI will revolutionize the shipping, and in Trondheim, we are first testing autonomous and remote-controlled ships.

More info her.

Current projects

Also from SINTEF Digital, we heard from Ståle Walderhaug, Senior Research Scientist. He gave us examples of how they digitalize the fisheries and maritime industry, and one example is the application FishInfo where fishing boats can see each others location. The app also helps fishing crew find information about where and when fish have been caught during previous years. You can also report missing equipment such as fishing nets which is a significant environmental hazard. More info about Ståle and Fishinfo here and here.

Next up was insights from a design process, when Bouvet’s Inger Johanne Håkedal shared the do’s and don’ts of making the application BartentsWatch for the fisheries. The conclusion is: Know your user. More info here and here

What about under the seabed? Runa F. Bjerkeholt works for Enios, and they use state of the art technology to conduct large underwater operations. They had to turn around and start their own company when suddenly their old company had to cut costs. Their options were eighter to move to another city or lose their jobs. They chose the third option. More info here and here.


What’s next?

Centre for Digital Life Norway (DLN) is a national center for biotechnology training, research, and innovation. DNL is a response to the strategic initiative “Digital Life – convergence for innovation” funded by the Norwegian Research Council (NRC). DLN is a virtual center, currently involving twelve major research projects, managed by a joint leadership network from NTNU, UiB, and UiO. Marie Aune, the center coordinator, told us about some of the many exciting research projects going on right now. More info here. 

Last but not least, we got to hear from Karl Nevland from startup ChemFree.

They are developing technology to save the world starting by solving the problem of oil spills. With 200 BARS pressure and 280 liters of water per minute the oil spill will be beaten into bits and pieces, and then it becomes food for bacteria in the sea. To test this technology, they are now building a pool at Sluppen in Trondheim. More info here.