‘Blue economy is the economy of the future’  

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The “blue economy”, or ocean economy based on the optimal utilisation of all maritime-related resources, is the economy of the future, was the consensus among the participants at a roundtable on “Blue Economy: Government, Business, and Science for a Sustainable Future” organised at the Atomexpo 2022 International Forum held last week. 

Atomexpo is the global nuclear nuclear industry’s leading exhibition-cum-business platform organised by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom. The 12th edition of Atomexpo took place over November 21-22 at the coastal city of Sochi, Russia. 

Experts from countries with coastlines like India, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia participated in the roundtable to discuss the outlook and challenges for the development of the ocean economy. 

Underlining the global, cross-border nature of the blue economy, the experts at the roundtable described it as the economy of the future that has the unique opportunity to become a platform for cooperation between the government, business, and science. 

Involving the optimal utilisation of all sectors of the maritime domains – such as living and non-living resources, tourism and ocean energy — for the sustainable development of coastal areas, the blue economy includes traditional and emerging industries like shipping, port infrastructure, shipbuilding and ship repair, marine construction and dredging, offshore oil and gas production, marine R&D and education, fishing and seafood processing, among others.  

The assets of the world’s oceans are estimated to be worth $25 trillion. The blue economy supports the lives of more than 3 billion people and is the 7th largest economy in the world which is growing annually and will reach $3 trillion by 2030. 

At the roundtable, issues of international cooperation in the blue economy, environmental management of marine areas, and financing as well as digital aspects of water projects were elaborated upon by Natalia Stapran, Director of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects in Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, and Nikolai Shabalin, the Executive Director of Lomonosov Moscow State University Marine Research Center. 

Mohamed Ahmed Said, Professor of Physical Oceanography at Egypt’s National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries spoke about the experience of Egypt and other African countries in the area of the blue economy. 

“Maintaining a balance between economic development and the sustainability of marine ecosystems is extremely important when investing in projects of the blue economy such as sustainable fishing, aquaculture, marine renewable energy sources, and marine transport”, Said noted.  

Rudra Prasad Pradhan, who is an Associate Professor at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India elaborated on the Indian experience as one of the pioneers in the development of the blue economy. 

“The Indian Ocean is spread over 70 million sq km. It is the sea space connecting 40 countries, and a major oil supply and trade lane. The ocean is called ‘Sagar’ in Hindi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi defines SAGAR as Security and Growth for all”, Pradhan said.  

“Situated right in the middle of the Indian Ocean, India looks at seas and oceans as a critical maritime platform for sharing experience and collective economic growth”, he added.  

The Indian government is currently putting the finishing touches to its Blue Economy Policy which is expected to be released within two months.   

Raj Jit Singh Wallia, the Deputy Chief Financial Officer of UAE-based logistics multinational DP World, shared his company’s experience on the subject. “The priorities of DP World, which contributes a lot in the development of the ‘blue economy’, include safeguarding ocean health, preventing pollution, and protecting biodiversity”, Wallia said. 

Rosatom’s Director of Business Development, Yekaterina Lyakhova, said the blue economy is of great importance for the company especially in the development of the Arctic region.  

“It is important to find a balance between maximizing economic benefits and preserving the biosphere of the region. Besides, it is necessary to find mechanisms to team up science, government, and business to develop a model of lean economic development not only in the Arctic, but also in other maritime spaces”, Lyakhova said.  

Rosatom operates nuclear powered icebreakers that help keep the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in the Arctic waters open for navigation throughout the year. In addition, Rosatom is equipping the NSR facilities, building port infrastructure, and developing transit. The NSR via the Arctic is the shortest route between the East Asian and Western European ports.   

Rosatom has signed a cooperation agreement with the Marine Research Center of Lomonosov Moscow State University to continue comprehensive research and monitoring of above-water and underwater environmental safety in the waters of Russia’s Arctic zone in 2022-2023. The previous study based on data from 50 monitoring stations in the waters of the NSR has concluded that commercial shipping currently has no significant impact on marine ecosystems in the Arctic.