ENGINEERING FOR THE OCEANS - A View from 1,300,000 ft.


The original title of this talk was going to be “Engineering for the Oceans – a View from 30,000ft.” However, while the 30,000 ft represents the approximate altitude for commercial aircraft, the 1.3 million ft. (or ~250 miles) ft. the approximate orbiting altitude for the International Space Station and will better fit my discussion which will try to take a very broad view.


While we as naval architects and marine engineers have known that we actually live on planet “Ocean”, it is only in relatively recent times that others have begun to think our home planet as the “Blue Planet” through viewing pictures transmitted back from space.

This recognition has led to interest in the oceans being raised in many fora and government agencies who previously have not had much interest or concern in such matters.  For example, while the UN has had some limited involvement in specific sectors through its agencies such as IMO and FAO it is now taking a much broader and more holistic view.


The UN has recently defined what it regards as the ”Blue Economy”


“ The blue economy comprises a range of economic sectors and related policies that together determine whether the use of ocean resources is sustainable. An important challenge of the blue economy is to understand and better manage the many aspects of oceanic sustainability, ranging from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem health to preventing pollution. Secondly, the blue economy challenges us to realize that the sustainable management of ocean resources will require collaboration across borders and sectors through a variety of partnerships, and on a scale that has not been previously achieved.”


While we focus on the oceans with the blue economy development, it is also important to examine the land-based activities which either contribute positively to or do harm to the blue economy.  Shipping may have some undesirable side-effects but overall international shipping provides benefits and brings the world closer together through essential trade in food, energy and consumer goods for onshore societies. Also, much of the pollution we see in the ocean today comes from land-based sources such as waste oil and disposed plastic.

As engineers are tasked with solving practical problems in the world — and are answerable within a broader and very diverse environment of actors and forces: socio-political, material, temporal and financial. Because engineering is a real-time activity in the world (unlike scientific research), engineers carry out their work under myriad and exceedingly complex constraints and pressures.  They often play the very social roles of mediators and facilitators and, in these roles, engineers rely not only on their deep knowledge of math and science but also on skills of ingenuity, intuition, and understanding of their craft.

In this talk we will examine the challenges that engineers face in bringing about a better more sustainable blue economy and will also look forward to the exciting new horizons opening up in many areas. These include, but are not limited to, offshore wind and wave energy, deep-sea mariculture and ocean ranching, subsea mineral harvesting, and associated enabling technologies such as robotic systems, unmanned ships, special purpose drone technology, advanced materials, new fuels and many more. 

As a codicil, it is good to note that in a recent UK survey of public opinion Engineers earned a trust of “telling the truth” from 89% of those polled, while Lawyers came in at 61%, Economists at 53%, Bankers at 41%, with Politicians at 15%, just ahead of Journalists at 13% who were the least trusted.

As trusted professionals it is our challenge is to make sure our voices are heard by Politicians over those of Lawyers, Economists and Bankers, so that they can make well informed decisions.



Peter Noble
President & Senior Advisor
Noble Associates Inc.

Peter Noble is naval architect, marine and ocean engineer with a wide range of experience across many sectors within the marine and offshore industries.

His career has included positions with shipyards; with ship and offshore design consultants; with offshore and marine research and development companies; with major classification societies; and as chief naval architect with an international oil company. He has carried our projects assignments in many parts of the world including Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and the US and Canada.

He is a past-president of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Washington and has served as a Vice President of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the recipient of the SNAME Admiral Land Medal and a number of other awards.

Peter Noble has a long involvement with experimental and front-end innovation engineering, starting at the Denny Shipyard ship model test tank in Scotland (the world’s first commercial towing tank) while he was a student apprentice and continuing throughout his professional career. He is the inventor of a number of patented advances relating to LNG transport and Arctic offshore developments.

His current work includes advising on ocean renewable energy projects and on the use of future fuels and energy sources in the marine environment, and he continues to support student and young professional activities in naval architecture and ocean engineering through mentoring and advising on capstone projects.
When:  Feb 7, 2023 from 06:00 PM to 07:15 PM (UTC)
Associated with  Western Europe

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