Deep Blue Sea

Last week plans were announced to expand the UK’s ‘Blue Belt’ (parcels of seabed around the coast) in order to preserve marine habitats. It is widely quoted that we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about our ocean floors, with only 5% having been explored. In the hope of alleviating the resource pressures on land, our gaze is likely to turn to the sea in the future. Who owns what is a good starting question. President Truman claimed the entire US continental shelf in 1945, whereas more recently Russia used a submarine to plant a flag under the North Pole to assert their rights. The ownership around the UK is clearer: The Crown typically owns the first 12 nautical miles from the shore, and various sovereign rights exist to the edge of the continental shelf. The main reason for interest in the sea is mineral wealth; however, the seabed is also being used for new purposes. The UK leads the world in terms of offshore wind capacity (c. 7,000 MW) with Siemens providing the tech for the large majority of offshore wind farms, and investing heavily in renewables in areas such as the Humber region. Meanwhile, Microsoft has recently sunk a data centre off the coast of Orkney; noting that 50% of the world’s population lives near the coast, the sea provides a natural coolant, and deployment can take as little as 90 days.