Smart Ocean – Smart Industries

Efforts to date have put instruments on “ships of opportunity” and yielded important data and experience, but these have been limited in numbers of vessels, areas covered and timespan due to the lack of an overall system to foster, plan and coordinate the strategic use of industry vessels and platforms for data collection.

A comprehensive structure and process was needed to organize industry partnerships with science to scale up the level of data collecting from ships and platforms of opportunity and expand the spatial and temporal extent of ocean observations.

Why Smart Ocean-Smart Industries?

The WOC had discussions with a number of its Members and companies of the Ocean Business Community (primarily oil/gas, shipping, marine technology, insurance) as well as national ocean observation programs (e.g. in the US, EU and Australia), all of whom supported and encouraged this initiative.

In particular, the key U.N. agencies concerned with ocean, weather and climate observations encouraged the WOC to develop and implement a Smart Ocean-Smart Industries (SO-SI) program. This included UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the World Metrological Organization (WMO) which coordinates the marine atmospheric observation systems. IOC and WMO collaborate in the Joint Committee on Marine Meteorology (JCOMM), which has a program to develop and coordinate the “ships of opportunities”.

The WOC’s SO-SI program will build on existing ships of opportunity efforts and create a program fostering and coordinating collaboration between the diverse Ocean Business Community and the scientific community. A systematic, regular, sustained and integrated collection and reporting of standardized ocean and atmospheric data for input to operational and scientific programs would indeed contribute to: monitoring /managing ocean ecosystems, understanding ocean, weather and climate conditions and trends, improving ocean health and management, and improving the safety and sustainability of commercial activities at sea.


Through its SO-SI Ocean Platform, the WOC is working to ensure industry data collection and sharing is coordinated, efficient, cost effective and integrated into national and international public science programs.The SO-SI program seeks to bring about:

  • Increased industry participation in improving ocean and atmospheric understanding.
  • Expanded ocean databases especially in the least documented and most important areas (e.g. polar regions).
  • Improved understanding, monitoring, modeling, forecasting and management of the ocean and a new era of industry collaboration with the scientific community, governments, inter-governmental agencies and other key ocean stakeholders.

The UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the World Metrological Organization (WMO) invited the WOC to participate in the biannual meeting of the Joint Committee on Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) Ship Observations Team (SOT) (April, 2011) to outline the potential for the WOC SO-SI Ocean Platform and build the relationships with key national and international agencies and individuals in the scientific/ocean observations community.

Representatives from shipping, oil and gas, marine technology and other sectors met with scientists, government agencies, and inter-governmental organizations at the first WOC “Smart Ocean – Smart Industries” workshop, hosted by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) on 12-13 December 2011 in Paris.

The unique gathering attracted more than double the number of participants anticipated and sparked immediate, concrete action. Within less than 24 hours of the workshop, several participant companies offered to deploy oceanographic sensors from their vessels in areas where more data is needed.

The event was designed to develop a common understanding among ocean industries and the scientific community on voluntary observation programs, understand the key barriers to scaling up these efforts and develop the principles, roadmap and work plan for moving forward. The ultimate goal is a global program to facilitate, coordinate and ramp up the efficient, cost effective ocean and atmospheric information collection by a growing number and range of vessels and platforms.

Following on from the initial SO-SI workshop in Paris, the WOC organized a panel on Smart Ocean-Smart Fisheries: Data Collection from Fishing Vessels, at the Sustainable Seafood Summit in Hong Kong, in 2012 to explore how to expand the fishing industry efforts to gather ocean, weather and climate information.

Since then the WOC and the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (CCFI) hosted a Smart Fishing Vessels Workshop in St. John’s, Newfoundland, CA as part of the WOC involvement in the World Seafood Congress on 29 September 2013 and a joint report was subsequently issued.

In 2014, the WOC identified several pilot projects to advance industry involvement in data collection, notably in the Arctic. The WOC also co-organized an international workshop to advance ocean industry data collecting and sharing in Montreal, Canada, in partnership with Canada’s Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR). In 2015, the WOC partnered with IOC and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and identified the Global Drifter Program as a priority for engaging industry in the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). Thereafter, the World Ocean Council organized the deployment of Global Drifters on vessels in high priority areas.

The WOC also developed industry outreach materials for the University of Hawaii (UH) pilot project on tsunami detection at sea. The World Ocean Council identified amongst its Members the appropriate corporate partner (Maersk) and organized for instrument deployment collaboration between Maersk and UH.

For more documents on SO_SI, visit the Resources page.

Relevant Events

The WOC sponsored the following events on SO-SI:

2019 – Sustainable Ocean Summit, Paris, France – Half-day workshop on “Industry-Science Cooperation for Safe and Sustainable Arctic Operations” in collaboration with ARICE

2018 – Sustainable Ocean Summit, Hong Kong – Session on “SMART Ocean – SMART Industries and the Arctic: Advancing Industry-Science Collaboration for Data Collection in Support of Safe and Responsible Arctic Development”

2017 – Sustainable Ocean Summit, Halifax, Canada – Session on “Smart Ocean-Smart Industries: Advancing Ocean Industry Data Collection”

2016 – Sustainable Ocean Summit, Rotterdam, Netherlands – Sessions on “The Digital Ocean” and “Smart Ocean-Smart Industries: Industry Data Collection and Sharing to Improve Ocean Knowledge”

2015 – Sustainable Ocean Summit, Singapore – Sessions on “SO-SI : Industry Data Collection to Improve Ocean Knowledge” and “Big Ocean Data – The Business of Marine Data Collection, management, analysis and mapping”

2013 – Sustainable Ocean Summit, Washington DC, USA – Session on “SO-SI Plenary Session: Data Collection for Ocean, Weather and Climate”

2011 – Smart Ocean-Smart Industries Workshop, Paris France

2010 – Sustainable Ocean Summit, Belfast, Northern Ireland – Session on “Ocean Industries and Ocean Science”