Marine & OffshoreJuly 26, 2023

Navigating the waters toward cleaner seas

A multi-pronged approach for sustainable waters will be the key to ensuring clean seas for centuries to come.
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Avatar Shoshana Kranish

Covering more than 70% of the earth’s surface, water is an incredibly important resource. It serves a purpose for nearly every part of life, from housing ecosystems home to diverse flora and fauna to enabling transportation of goods and people to creating renewable energy and beyond.

The planet’s seas, though, are increasingly vulnerable to pollution. To offset this trend, technology companies of all kinds are innovating to develop new methods, products and solutions to counteract the effects of pollution and to protect the world’s waters for the future. 

While there are numerous ways to tackle the problem at hand, the solutions need to be both proactive and prescriptive, dealing with the damage that’s already been done and preventing further harm from occurring. From both governmental and non-governmental sides, it’s apparent these routes are already being taken. 

Renewable energy on the ocean - Dassault Systemes

Reducing pollution and protecting marine environments

From chemicals to plastic, the oceans have slowly accrued massive amounts of physical pollutants. As more and more waste is dumped into the water, humanity must deal with two major challenges: removing debris from the seas and protecting the ecosystems and wildlife affected by it. 

A study released earlier in 2023 found more than 170 trillion pieces of plastic are likely floating in the oceans and urged action to combat this reality, reverse its damage and put a stop to this ever-increasing trend. In addition to bits of trash, including microplastics so small they’re nearly undetectable, the seas are polluted by chemicals, both dumped purposely and spilled accidentally. 

One start-up in Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Accelerator Lab, Clean Sea Solutions, is tackling the problem of plastic build-up in shoreline waters. The company has three products: the Aquapod, which collects marine litter and microplastics in marinas and at docks, the Aquadrone, which autonomously collects waste in harbors, and the Waste Station, which enables boat owners to safely dispose of waste in a controlled off-shore environment. 

In waters around the globe, pollution is an apparent issue. Famed stories of ‘trash islands’ and the slow death of the Great Barrier Reef offer visual understandings of the scale of the problem. 

Significant advancements are also being made in the fight to protect marine wildlife and ecosystems. Companies like Ashored, which creates entanglement-free fishing gear, and C-Cell, which uses biomimicry to create safe barriers for coral reefs to grow, are among those leading the charge. 

Just last month, various governmental representatives at the United Nations formally adopted the High Seas Treaty. The treaty, the latest international piece of legislation calls on cooperation for “conserving marine life and restraining harmful activities” in the open ocean. While states can take action on an individual basis, the high seas, which account for two-thirds of the world’s oceans and lie outside national jurisdictions, international work is a formidable way forward. Though not all societies have contributed equally to the pollution that’s occurred, everyone will benefit if it’s stopped. 

Improving clean shipping methods

Maritime shipping accounts for more than 90% of transported goods, and the demand for and reliance on this method is expected to triple in volume by 2050. Thousands of cargo ships traverse the globe every day, bringing goods — and simultaneously, damage — to the seas and their inhabitants. However, the future doesn’t have to look like this.

Sustainable shipping is a growing and necessary field, and real efforts are being made to ensure the industry becomes more environmentally friendly every day. There’s a critical need for smarter, cleaner and greener shipping that doesn’t sacrifice efficiency. 

That starts with the production process. Dassault Systèmes’ Optimized Production for Sea solution on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables shipbuilders to design and deploy sea vessels in a sustainable manner that reduces excess waste, cost and time expenditure.

Reducing waste this early on in the chain encourages a more environmentally-friendly process overall. Designing ships with a virtual twin also enables manufacturers to test a variety of different materials and components. This way, they can consider their individual lifespans, ability to be broken down and recycled or reused later on, their environmental impact and so on. 

Once the ships are built, they need to be fueled in a way that doesn’t pollute the water. Across the maritime industry, significant research is dedicated to developing new sustainable marine fuels that either don’t emit greenhouse gasses or emit them in significantly reduced quantities. Using fuels like bio-methanol and renewable diesel can turn this necessary industry into an environmentally conscious one. 

On the consumer end of the spectrum, sustainable leisure boats are also picking up speed. Just as electric vehicles and other sustainable transportation methods have piqued the interest of shoppers on land, so too, are seafarers looking toward environmentally cleaner ways to enjoy the water. 

The 3DEXPERIENCE Sea Boat Builder offers a tool for building vessels efficiently and sustainably, maximizing productivity while reducing excess waste. Users can leverage the builder for both designing and modeling new electric propulsion motors — an increasingly common option — to retrofit existing boats, or create new ones entirely. 

Sustainable seas for the future

All of these efforts are commendable, but they need to be conducted in tandem with greater changes towards sustainability offshore, as well as on it. Global warming is causing the emission of methane — a greenhouse gas — from glaciers. Ocean acidification, a gradual reduction in the pH of the water caused by the additional absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere, is increasing. Around the world, the effects of pollution caused by land-based entities can be felt particularly strongly in the oceans. 

While this might sound apocalyptic, it surely isn’t. Humanity doesn’t take for granted our existence on the one and only blue planet, and the attention paid to this matter is apparent in the many start-ups, governmental efforts and organizations dedicated to preserving our seas.

Dassault Systèmes commends those taking a comprehensive approach and is proud to outfit companies with the technology required to bring to life innovative solutions to pressing problems like these. As a founding member of the European Green Digital Coalition, we are actively involved in supplying more than 300,000 customers with solutions that augment and encourage sustainability.

The future of sustainability doesn’t lie solely in siloed conversations and commitments. It’s a holistic engagement, requiring cross-industry cooperation, sparked by imaginative ideas and the technology innovations that can bring them to life. Leveraging tools like virtual twins and 3D modeling aids product and system designs that’ll preserve and protect our oceans. By considering a multitude of approaches to tackle this pressing issue, individuals, companies and governments can enact necessary change.

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