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Marine science, engineering and technology

In the UK over 90% of all international trade is carried in nearly one hundred thousand ocean-going vessels, from massive bulk cargo ships to the smallest sea-canal barge. Along with energy, defence and recreation the UK marine industry is worth over 50 billion pounds annually and employs some 400 000 people. Skilled people are needed to operate ships or work offshore, but many more are required in shore based jobs that support these operations.

Design of ships, boats and other offshore structures is one key area of activity. Every year entirely new ships appear and there is continuous development to improve performance and economy. There are millions of fishing vessels and workboats of all types. The current boom in cruising has led to a new generation of luxury passenger vessels, and water sports of all types are amongst the most popular leisure activities in Britain.

More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and the deep ocean has been described as the ‘last true frontier’. The marine environment presents challenging problems to animals that live in the sea, to ships, and boats, which sail on or under the sea and to fixed structures built in the sea. Biologists and engineers study the seas so that they can use this international resource in a responsible and environmentally sustainable way.

A modern ferry has been described as a luxury hotel, built on a multi-storey car park, on top of a power station, moving at 40 kilometres per hour through a gale.

To design such a 20,000 tonne structure, and then construct it in less than one year requires a bewildering range of technology and skills. All of these types are designed in the UK.

Every use of the sea, needs the range of skills available in marine technology and the ability to integrate the work of other engineering disciplines is essential.

Qualified marine engineers create propulsion and control systems for ships, oil platforms, underwater and offshore vehicles. The latest computer methods for monitoring and control are used to ensure efficiency and to minimise environmental impacts.

Other professions include naval architects who design and produce ships and other marine vehicles. Offshore engineers design and produce fixed and floating offshore oil production installations. The marine environment is a delicate balance and marine scientists specialise in the study of the creatures and plant life in the sea. Marine biology is a subject that has interactions with many other scientific disciplines.

Graduates from accredited programmes of study in marine science or technology can become professionally qualified as Chartered Scientists (CSci) or Chartered Engineers (CEng), after a course of study approved by the Institute of Marine Engineering,Science and Technology (IMarEST) or through the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA).

By Professor George Bruce, University of Newcastle