Weathering the storm – Staying healthy & safe amid COVID-19, and a look ahead to continued opportunities in ocean

Three weeks ago, I returned home after spending some time in British Columbia, energized with exciting ideas that would bring together our capabilities in ocean from coast to coast to coast, bringing us a step further in growing Canada’s leadership in sustainable ocean economic development. This was to be the focal point of this article – the incredible insights, activities, and people on our west coast and how the supercluster could help support, accelerate, and amplify the impacts they deliver. However, since my return home to St. John’s, the world around us has changed, and while my excitement off the heels of my time in BC remains – I want to first address COVID-19 and how we weather the storm.

The way we do business and the way we live our lives looks nothing like it did as we embarked upon the New Year just a few months back. As we all carry on the best way we can during these challenging times, keeping each other healthy and safe is, above all, the most important thing we need to do. We do not know what the long-term impacts of the virus will be, but we know there are actions we can take now to help mitigate them. In tandem with the tremendous work happening by governments, health care providers, employers, communities, and others on the front line taking the necessary measures to protect us all, there is also work happening to keep the economy moving as much as possible.

I see the role of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) as an integral one in not only continuing to advance the kinds of transformational growth opportunities we know are possible in ocean, but also finding ways to accelerate additional opportunities to grow the ocean economy as we eventually return to a more regular business environment and find our new normal.

From an operational standpoint, OSC has put measures into place to allow our day-to-day activities to continue virtually, leveraging the technology available to us to remain connected and to promote collaboration. Despite changing the way we do things, our focus has not wavered. There are incredible capabilities, ideas, and opportunity in ocean for Canadians, and this will be more important than ever when we emerge from the pandemic.

My time in BC certainly illustrated the significant role our west coast has to play in delivering on Canada’s ocean growth potential. In an effort to maximize my time in any region, I always try to connect with as many members as possible and this time had the opportunity to spend some time with OFG and Cellula. In addition to those meetings I was also invited to participate in a number of different events and presentations including the UBC Future Ship Industry workshop, where Paul Blomerus, an internationally-experienced expert in clean energy and power systems technology, was a part of their Centre of Excellence (and someone we had speak at our OSC member event last November). Paul is now the Executive Director at the Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping.

I attended the Western Innovation Forum led by Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) promoting western capabilities in aerospace, marine, and defense. Through various presentations, I heard about the key areas of focus for the Royal Canadian Navy, and learned about some interesting companies to watch including Current Scientific Corporation and Barnacle Systems.

I got the latest update on the great things planned for Victoria’s ocean economy in Victoria 3.0, and was excited to see that the Association of British Columbia Marine Industries (ABCMI) had doubled their membership since I attended their conference in November 2018. There is a clear momentum happening in the sector and ABCMI is consistently hosting sold-out events. Congratulations to the ABCMI team!

If you haven’t yet checked out Canada’s Ocean Asset Map, I encourage you to do so – it’s an evergreen tool to showcase and connect Canada’s ocean capabilities.  So far we have more than 3,000 companies captured with more than 900 from BC listed on the map. And, if you’re a Canadian ocean company that’s not listed, but would like to be, the OSC team can help you with that.

My three key takeaways:

❶  This is an uncertain time that will lead to a period of economic recovery and the ocean economy has a role to play. In Canada, there is an opportunity to increase the connectivity between eastern, northern, central and western parts of the country to be able to effectively drive Canada’s leadership position in ocean growth.

❷  There is a lot happening on the west coast – there are opportunities to leverage the strengths of different regions and learn from each other. We are working to increase awareness, foster collaboration, and build partnerships across the country.

❸  As we head towards a digitized ocean, issues around security need to stay top of mind. To manage the new risks of remote operations and increasingly autonomous vehicles, we have to be ready to put the measures in place to protect us and our information.

Take care! Stay healthy & safe.