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Workshop Concludes Discussions on the Best Approaches to Harness Advanced Technologies for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the International Seabed Area

Workshop Concludes Discussions on the Best Approaches to Harness Advanced Technologies for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the International Seabed Area

On Friday, April 5, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), in collaboration with the Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) of Portugal, successfully concluded the first international expert workshop entitled “Charting future horizons: harnessing advanced technologies for the protection and sustainable use of the international seabed area.”

The three-day event, which took place at the Polytechnical Institute of Porto, Portugal, between April 3–5, 2024, brought together internationally renowned experts who met in a hybrid format to explore and discuss the integration of cutting-edge technologies for deep-sea observation, monitoring, exploration best industry practices and exploitation of seabed minerals in the international seabed area (the Area), including readiness levels, cooperation, data sharing and management.

The workshop was attended by more than 120 participants including 31 government representatives from 29 different countries including 13 developing States from Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Focusing on modern technologies across five key pillars—ocean observation and communication, monitoring, autonomy-automation-robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and mining-energy-processing—the workshop provided the opportunity for technology developers and users to discuss new technological developments towards model and data-based ocean and seabed activities. The discussions led to identify trends, opportunities and challenges pertaining to the advancement of technological solutions and innovations, including possible approached for technology transfer towards developing States and the design of meaningful capacity development activities.

Key outcomes included the stocktaking and understanding of reliable existing technology such as surface and underwater autonomous and automated drones, robots, and sensor technologies, leveraging practical approaches in support of the sustainable use of ocean resources including the minerals of the Area. The workshop also highlighted technical solutions to enhance data acquisition for a better understanding of the marine environment through the application of advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence methods.

Special emphasis was given to the increased effectiveness of seabed surveys and assessments in terms of data accuracy and procession including in relation to their very limited environmental impacts compared to other activities conducted across different ocean industries or even, on land.

In his opening remarks, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, ISA Secretary-General, underscored the importance of technology in the implementation of the precautionary approach in seabed exploration and exploitation in the Area. “This workshop marks a significant milestone in our collective journey towards the sustainable management of seabed resources. The insightful discussions and knowledge gained highlight the huge progress achieved in the last few years when it comes to deep-sea technology and innovation. Now, we should redouble our efforts to learn and improve our approach to any use of the seabed of the Area whilst prioritize equitable access to it for developing States, particularly the most vulnerable of them, including least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small islands developing States,” he said.

“I am confident that by reinforcing all our partnerships and promoting a strengthened collaboration with all stakeholders we will significantly advance our ability to ensure that technological innovation supports the conduct of activities in the Area for the benefit of all humanity, with the utmost regard for the marine environment,” he added.

Ms. Maria Luís Mendes, Head of Portugal’s delegation to the ISA Council, highlighted Portugal’s active engagement and contributions, saying, “Portugal’s participation and support for the ISA’s initiatives, demonstrated through events like this workshop, underscore our deep commitment to marine scientific research and the development of marine technologies. These efforts are crucial for the protection and sustainable use of our oceans.”

Elaborating on the importance of interdisciplinary research and international cooperation in addressing the complex challenges of the deep sea, Prof. José Manuel Mendonça of INESC TEC noted that, “Our motivation and capabilities to contribute to this field stem from a rich history of interdisciplinary research and a firm commitment to creating impactful science.”

Reflecting on the outcomes of the workshop, Prof. Isabel Praça, on behalf of the Polytechnic of Porto, praised the collaborative spirit of all the participants and the positive result of it: “Hosting this event has been an honor because it exemplifies the critical role of academic and research institutions in driving forward the agenda for sustainable ocean use.” The workshop concluded with a strong consensus on the need for continued collaboration among stakeholders to advance the technological frontiers for the exploration and protection of the Area and its resources. The findings and recommendations from this workshop will be used in the development of a technical study summarizing best industry practices and areas of cooperation to guide further efforts to harness technology for the sustainable use of seabed minerals and the protection of the marine environment in the Area.


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