New study programme ensures sustainability in Blue Growth

Technical University of Denmark

If Denmark is to maintain its proud tradition of being a maritime nation, a more sustainable development of the blue economy is needed. This is why DTU is offering students a new MSc degree in Ocean Engineering.

“Wind parks, fisheries, ocean farming or any sort of activity that goes on in the ocean, require people with the particular set of skills, that we are putting together in this new programme” says Professor Andre Visser from DTU Aqua and Head of Studies of Ocean Engineering.

Blue growth or blue economy is driven by an international urge to utilize the oceans better, but if the maritime industry is to do that responsibly, more knowledge, research and new technological solutions are needed.

“We need to examine the effect of blue growth on the marine environment, which is why this programme is so important and timely,” says the head of studies.

Examines the effect on the marine environment

According to the professor, all engineering projects that occur in the ocean take place in an environment, that is foreign to most people.

“We don’t understand the ocean intuitively, so we need to do more research,” he says.

The head of studies stresses that engineers today lack the specialized competences needed to utilize the ocean in a sustainable manner.

“For example, an offshore wind farm will interfere with the fisheries that goes on there, and the ship traffic in those areas. It also effects the potential for offshore fish farms, the way sediment transport and waves impact the shoreline, as well as conservation. All those things must be balanced in a responsible manner. This new programme is a holistic approach to many sorts of engineering projects that are placed offshore.”

Ocean engineers obtain a unique skillset

A deeper understanding of the marine environment requires two fundamental skills that future ocean engineers need to master. One aspect is about developing a clear scientific understanding. From the waves to life in the ocean. From chemistry to the sediments on the seabed. Another aspect is about developing a keen knowledge of the technical requirements for working in the ocean, which requires a lot of practical experience, going out and doing research.

“The sea is not easily observed. You must have special instrumentation to look under the water, different cameras, different imaging systems, acoustics, monitoring systems, satellites, all those things,” Andre Visser says and adds:

“Once you put in a big engineering project, like a wind farm, you have to constantly monitor it, to see what is happening in the environment around it, both in terms of the marine environment, but also the stability. Is the seabed eroding differently because you’ve put these pylons in there? Is it changing the seafloor? These aspects are important.”

New research ship in the pipeline

Andre Visser explains that going out to sea to do research is actually very expensive, but DTU has its own research ship, Dana, that is based in Hirtshals.

“It’s a big ocean-going ship. I mean, I’ve sailed across the Atlantic to Greenland from various places, but it is getting old. Luckily, there’s a replacement on the way,” says Andre Visser.

DTU also owns smaller, coastal research ships, that students can use to do coastal work for their practical courses during the summer. Also, there is a freshwater laboratory in Silkeborg, a shelter fish center in Nykøbing Mors, so students have access to many different localities, where students can carry out practical work, in addition to the teaching laboratories on campus.

Oceanography was formerly a specialization under the MSc programme Aquatic Science and Technology, which is now named Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture and will move from Lyngby Campus to Hirtshals Campus from 1 September 2023. The new MSc programme in Ocean Engineering will be offered at DTU Lyngby campus.

“One of the reasons we have it here in Lyngby is because of the partnerships with other departments. DTU Aqua will lead the programme, but there is a big cross campus collaboration with disciplines such as mechanical engineering, space, wind, electrical engineering and civil engineering, that all contribute to this programme through our course catalogue,” the head of studies emphasizes.

Students currently enrolled in Aquatic Science and Technology can change their programme to, for instance Ocean Engineering, until 1 May 2023.

First of its kind in Europe

Demand for the new study programme comes from both students and employers in industry, and the head of studies has even received several enquiries from abroad. It is the only one of its kind in Denmark, and there are very few similar courses being taught at foreign universities.

With the new programme, DTU is taking the expertise in oceanography and extending it right across campus, rather than just having it concentrated at DTU Aqua.

“We enable more students from different fields to utilize this knowledge. Students can become mechanical engineers with a specialization in coastal processes, as they obtain the ocean engineering components, which focuses on sustainability and environmental understanding,” says the professor.

The candidates can either follow a scientific career or they can go directly into industry with large international Danish companies. On top of that, there’s also a huge potential for startup companies to enter the offshore service industry.

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