1. The strategic importance of marine research and the need for an integrated holistic approach
The marine environment represents a vast reserve of still unexplored natural resources and offers possibilities that can be considered towards supporting European economic development. As a research arena, the ocean is costly to access even with satellites and highly variable, complex and still unpredictable. Because of the increasing complexity of societal demands and the profound influence on our daily lives, marine research and technology should be addressed in a consistent, holistic and coherent way. A long-term perspective should also be adopted when planning and organizing marine research in Europe. Fragmentation, together with a lack of cohesion and strategic vision, is still the greatest weakness of European marine research. The EUROFLEETS consortium considers that only by pulling resources and infrastructures together, a strong innovation impact could be achieved in terms of:
1. Identifying and quantifying actual and potential marine resources,
2. Maintaining high resolution and sustainable observing systems,
3. Providing better knowledge and understanding of ecosystem functioning and processes,
4. Providing new and efficient tools and technologies for resource exploration and development,
5. Prediction tools.
2. The fragmentation of European Research fleets
Marine research infrastructures require a large variety of specialized and expensive facilities, including research vessels, satellites, observing networks, data centres, computing and experimental facilities and represent an estimated 50% of the running costs. Research vessels are necessary to marine sciences to maintain observation systems, to monitor oceanographic parameters, to implement sophisticated equipments into the deep sea, to collect rare and sensitive biological samples. They are considered as a unique distributed infrastructure. A coherent pan-European approach to infrastructure policy with enhanced partnership in investment, development and use, is required to deliver solutions to meet the diverse needs of European marine research.
3. The objectives of the EUROFLEETS project
EUROFLEETS is clearly a process aiming at bringing together the existing European research fleet owners, to enhance their coordination and promote the cost-effective use of their facilities in order to support the efficient provision of essential research services for monitoring and sustainable management of the Regional Seas and the Oceans and allow access to all European scientists. This would in turn, give generic support to protect environment and biodiversity, understand climate change and better predict related impacts, facilitate the sustainable exploitation of marine resources and increase employment through education and training. EUROFLEETS aims to:
Structure and durably integrate, on European scale, through an e-platform the way that the research vessels are operated and their interoperability capacities,
Use more cost-efficiently the existing European Ocean/Global and Regional fleets,
Facilitate a wider sharing of knowledge and technologies across fields and between academia and industry,
Promote greener and sustainable research vessel operations and responsibility,
Provide all European researchers with a full access to high performing research fleets to conduct marine research,
Foster the coordinated and joint development of European fleets in terms of capacity and performances.