Saturday, January 26, 2013


Realization of the vast potential for providing the basic necessities of energy, food and water for mankind’s needs from sustainable ocean resources production is a new frontier called the “Blue Revolution”. Because the oceans are a shared, open, and accessible planetary resource available to mankind worldwide, it is proposed that the benefits of sustainable ocean resources production be a shared benefit for humanity.

OTEC power generation in deep ocean waters can support integrated production of energy, food, water and marine bioproducts on ocean platforms or “plantships”. OTEC-powered plantships can be deployed in spacious ocean environments away from coastal recreational areas, fisheries, marine sanctuaries, ports, and navigation lanes. To lead the way to realization of the Blue Revolution, much research needs to be done, and the most important is to provide answers to questions of feasibility, best practices and technologies, and environmental impacts and benefits through research conducted under real conditions in the ocean.

Blue Revolution Hawaii (BRH) advocates the building of a Pacific International Ocean Station (PIOS) as the world’s first in-ocean platform to conduct feasibility research, technological testing and environmental assessments for ocean resources development in Hawaiian EEZ waters. The Hawaiian southwest EEZ has good deepwater thermal gradient conditions, ocean waters that support a wide range of fish and other marine life, and no conflicts with other international boundaries. Hawaii is home to pioneering work in OTEC, having the distinction of achieving the world’s first net-positive OTEC electricity generation in 1979. It is also home to NELHA, the world’s pre-eminent laboratory for deep ocean water processing of potable water and growing algae, fish, seafood, and other marine co-products.

PIOS is envisioned to be a large, semi-buoyant, artificial island platform engineered to be stable in harsh ocean conditions and weather. It is to have a “dryland” center platform surrounded by a retainer-wall lagoon irrigated by nutrient-rich deep ocean waters. The lagoon provides space for growing macroalgae, fish, and other seafood in nutrient-rich effluent waters. An OTEC plant would provide sufficient electrical capacity for a complete range of research activities, resource processing, and living/working quarters to accommodate international researchers, crew and visitors. PIOS in operation would host invited international research teams engaged in sponsored research projects. An international cooperative research management agency is to be formed or engaged to manage research activities on PIOS. PIOS success in R&D on OTEC-based production platforms could serve as a model for OTEC-based resources development in oceans worldwide.

Historically, knowledge of best practices and development of economical and efficient technologies have been led by advanced nations that have the technological and economic wherewithal to explore and innovate. But advanced nations have acted in their own self-interest by using such technological advances for their own military and strategic interests, and in the current era of globalized world trade, for market dominance and profit-making by their own industrial corporations. This has resulted in political (trade) conflicts and global inequity caused by the past zero-sum approach of self versus others interests.

For example, the so-called “Green Revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s greatly improved agricultural productivity but was dominated by advanced countries and industrial corporations controlling high-yield seeds, fertilizers, & pesticides for sale to individual farmers in poorer countries at high cost. Advanced medical and drug technologies represented another arena where advanced countries have controlled access to needed drugs and therapies to the detriment of those in need of them, such as access to affordable AIDS drugs in lesser developed countries of Africa and Asia.

Control of new technologies is obtained primarily through securing intellectual property rights (IPRs), mainly patents applied for in principal markets, by industrial companies that research and perfect such technologies. In knowledge-based economies, securing IPR rights is indispensable to protecting the owner’s market position, competitiveness, and ability to enforce a profit premium for legally protected products. However, access to such essential-to-life technologies developed by advanced countries would present a momentous challenge for lesser developed countries.

The oceans of the world are “shared” in the sense that ocean waters flow in a contiguous fluid body. What happens in ocean waters in one territorial jurisdiction is likely to have impacts in adjacent or even regional waters.

The oceans of the world are also “open”. Under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (‘UNCLOS’) adopted in 1994, and since signed by 160 nations, the territorial jurisdiction of ocean-bordering countries extends 12 nautical miles from shore. Beyond 12 miles and up to 200 miles from shore, individual nations are recognized as having an Exclusive Economic Zone which they can regulate for exploitation or marine, mineral, and ocean energy resources. However, other nations have a right of transit, and can fish or exploit resources to the extent not fully utilized by the bordering nation. Under UNCLOS, the “high seas” beyond 200 miles from shore are deemed to be the “common heritage of humanity”, which no nation or entity can appropriate for its exclusive use.

Resources in the oceans of the world are “unowned” in the sense that the legal jurisdiction and ownership rights of ocean-bordering countries extend only to territorial waters to 12 nautical miles. Beyond that, ocean waters are unregulated by the ocean-bordering countries, except for the purposes of security, economic exploitation, and environmental protection provided in UNCLOS.

Consideration of sharing access to ocean resources knowledge and technologies should also take into account that, due to high capital costs in advanced countries, the development of ocean plantships is likely to take place first in the ocean waters of lesser developed countries where capital costs may be a fraction of advanced countries, and therefore lesser developed countries are likely to provide the location, capital cost advantages, and the physical ocean environment for such research. Further, due to the advanced countries having comparatively greater wealth to secure access to energy, food and water at world commodity prices, lesser developed countries would have a greater need to ensure secure and reliable access to life-sustaining necessities of energy, food and water.  Moreover, patent and other private ownership rights would likely be unenforceable in EEZ ocean waters since they are beyond national territorial boundaries.

It is therefore proposed that a “benefit-for-humanity” policy of IP sharing could be instituted for international cooperative research conducted in the ocean such as on the PIOS host platform.  International research teams invited to conduct research on the host platform may be asked to sign an international cooperative research agreement providing for the following:

1. Research results, data, and analysis, when completed and documented in correct and accurate form, are to be made accessible by publication on the host network for access by all other research teams. Within a short time window, say one month, to allow time for correction or revision or inclusion of other necessary materials, access to published research on the host network is to be opened to the World Wide Web. Such access would share the fruits of ocean research with all countries of the world and preclude any research party from patenting.

2. Any improvements derived from the results of ocean research may be patented in the home country of the improvement-inventing research team. Patenting in the inventor’s home country is permitted in order to preserve the inventor’s competitive position in their home country.

3. The international cooperative research agreement may also provide that the patentee of any improvements derived from the ocean research shall grant an open license for all to use the improvement freely in all other countries.

The proposed "benefit-for-humanity" policy of IP sharing of Blue Revolution technologies and methods could enable research teams of lesser developed countries to start on a path to technological parity in ocean resources production with advanced countries. Private companies can maintain their competitive positions in home markets by the exception of allowing home-country patenting of improvements derived from shared ocean research. Improvements made by private entities that are not based on shared ocean research can be patented as is now done conventionally. The proposed policy instituted by international cooperative research agreement on ocean platforms could provide a model for revamping the world IP system to better share access to life-sustaining technologies derived from ocean research, while preserving the competitive position of inventors through home-country IP ownership rights.