Covering over 70% of the Earth’s surface, oceans are one of the most important natural resources. Our oceans drive our climate and weather systems and play a key role in the global carbon cycle, absorbing about 30 percent of carbon dioxide produced by humans. They hold a large share of the Earth’s biological diversity – nearly 200,000 identified species- in addition to a wealth of non-living resources. Oceans offer a vast and largely untapped source for the development of medicines, materials and more. Oceans provide and support economic goods and services from energy, mining and fisheries to marine transportation and security.
Research by the United Nations shows that the world’s oceans provide livelihoods for more than three billion people, both directly and indirectly, employing in excess of 200 million and supporting many societies. Oceans bring US$3 billion to the global economy each year – that’s about 5% of global GDP, and according to recent figures from the OECD, contribute US$1.5 trillion annually in value-added to the overall economy.
The Ocean Economy community could be divided into three main groups: firstly, Direct Ocean Users. This group includes industries that directly depend on the ocean for the extraction or production of goods (living, non-living, energy) and the provision of services (transport, tourism, etc.). The second group is Ocean User Support Industries, which include, but are not limited to industries that depend on direct users for their existence (e.g. shipbuilders) or drive ocean industry growth (e.g. extractors, manufacturers, retailers that transport materials or products by sea). The third and final group is Essential Ocean Use “Infrastructure”, which provide the essential services that enable ocean industries to operate, such as insurance, legal and finance.
Shipping is one of the most dynamic industries in the Ocean Economy, seeing that 90% of global trade is carried by sea. Oman’s location at the heart of global trade routes makes our peaceful and calm seas an attractive and reliable hub for the global logistics industry, and as such will allow us to maximize the rich promise of our mining and manufacturing sectors – shipping their produce quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively to customers and clients around the globe.
A major source of food, our oceans serve as the primary source of protein for over 3.2 billion people and are central to global food security. Future technology applications increase the efficiency of fisheries, and expand the horizons of fishing vessels, allowing them to fish in deeper, more bountiful waters. Aquaculture is also a bright prospect in terms of food security, being the fastest growing food production system on the planet for past several decades.
The fertile coastal waters of the Sultanate offer a wealth of possibilities for the fishing industry and provide abundant opportunities for aquaculture. In fact, the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries estimates that aquaculture could represent a 220,000 ton/US $500-900 million industry by the year 2030, creating jobs, attracting investment, improving food security and opening up other opportunities.
Oceans open many new doors in terms of energy too. 32% of global hydrocarbon production is currently offshore and by 2035, deep-sea oil and gas production will double. Offshore wind energy has a bright future too, with recent growth rates of 59%. Renewable ocean energy can also be tapped through waves, tides, thermal, and salinity gradient. The waters of Oman are especially blessed in this regard, holding the potential for both fossil and renewable energy technologies.
Beyond this, marine-bio technology is an exciting emerging sector with tremendous potential for the use of marine biological systems and living organisms or derivatives to produce novel and innovative products and services for the medical and beauty industries. Replete with rich and unique marine life, Oman’s waters hold particular promise in this regard and indeed our scientists are already investigating marine based treatments for diabetes and cancer as well as new antibiotics, amongst other areas.