December 2021 Beacon Events

OCEANS 2021 San Diego – Porto Report 2

OCEANS 2021 San Diego – Porto

Virtual component, Porto

Conference report

António Pascoal, LARSyS, IST, Portugal, Co-Chair

Eduardo Silva, INESC-TEC, ISEP, Portugal. Co-Chair

Fausto Ferreira, LABUST, UNIZG, Croatia, Technical Committee Co-chair

João Tasso de Figueiredo Borges de Sousa, LSTS, FEUP, Co-Chair


The OCEANS 2021 San Diego – Porto virtual component included lively presentations and discussions on oceans-related issues and evoked the magic of the oceans spanning centuries of maritime history. The Porto virtual component complemented the in-person San Diego portion of this hybrid event, providing a dedicated forum for many attendees to participate in spite of travel constraints.

The Porto themes focused in two main topics:

Opening the Ocean Frontier:  A New Age of Discoveries

Ocean science and technology for the benefit of humankind.

The innovative Porto virtual component program included technical sessions, invited sessions on specialized topics, plenary sessions, a student poster competition, outreach media sessions, and discussion panels. The Porto component was all about connecting the world-wide community with the goals of opening the ocean frontier at the dawn of a new age of discoveries for the benefit of mankind. There were new forms of participation, namely of young students and researchers from distant communities bordering the world’s oceans, thus reinforcing the global dimension of the event.

OCEANS 2021 Porto virtual component was very well aligned with the surge of Portuguese interest in the oceans that comes from the recognition that Portugal harbors unique environments in the deep sea, as well as in the water column, and holds tremendous potential for the installation and operation of offshore wind/wave energy harvesting infrastructures and aquaculture farms. The conference was also very well aligned with the Atlantic International Research Centre (AIR Centre) initiative launched by the Portuguese government to foster a long-term multilateral platform for cooperation along and across the Atlantic with an inclusive perspective on S&T and economic development.

More information about the Conference can be found at the website:

OCEANS 2021 Porto virtual component by the numbers

The OCEANS 2021 Porto virtual component had a significant number of submissions and participants:

  • 428 abstract submissions
  • 14 finalists of the student poster competition
  • 325 abstracts accepted for oral presentation
  • 16 abstracts accepted for poster presentation
  • 51 abstracts accepted available on-demand only
  • 36 participating countries
  • 513 registrations

Oceans 2021 Porto virtual component attracted over 513 participants coming from academia, industry, governmental organizations, research institutes and private foundations.

Technical and poster sessions

Thanks to the remarkable work of a committed team of 186 reviewers from Europe, Asia, and North and South America, each submitted abstract was evaluated by 3 reviewers.

In total, 325 presentations were organized in the following technical sessions covering a wide range of topics of interest to the OCEANS community:

  • Access, Custody, and Retrieval of Data
  • Acoustic Telemetry and Communication
  • Affordable Ocean Systems and Technologies
  • Aquaculture Technology
  • Array Signal Processing and Array Design
  • Artificial Intelligence in Ocean Science and Technology
  • Automatic Control
  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
  • Buoy Technology
  • Classification and Pattern Recognition (Parametric and Non-parametric)
  • Exploration of Extreme Oceanic Environments
  • H2020 EU Marine Robots in action
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Hydrography / Seafloor mapping / Geodesy
  • Imaging and Vision
  • Marine Education and Literacy
  • Marine GIS and Data Fusion
  • Marine Law, Policy, Management and Education
  • Marine Life and Ecosystems
  • Marine Litter: monitoring and mitigation
  • Numerical Modeling and Simulation
  • Ocean Economic Potential
  • Ocean Energy
  • Oceanographic Instrumentation and Sensors
  • Oceanography: physical, geological, chemical, biological
  • Offshore Structures
  • Remote Sensing
  • Remotely Operated Vehicles
  • Sonar and Transducers
  • Sonar Imaging
  • Sonar Signal Processing
  • Systems and Observatories
  • Underwater Acoustics and Acoustical Oceanography
  • Underwater Robotics Competitions
  • Vehicle Design
  • Vehicle Navigation

The sessions were organized in 6 parallel tracks.

Fig.1 Open session speakers: Top left – Prof. Manuel Heitor; Top right – Admiral Mendes Calado: Bottom left – Prof. Miguel Miranda; Bottom right – Rear-Admiral Ventura Soares.

Opening session

The opening session included a welcome speech and four keynote speeches by four distinguished Portuguese leaders.

The welcome speech was delivered by the Porto Co-chairs, João Sousa, LSTS-FEUP, Portugal, Eduardo Silva, INESC-TEC-ISEP, Portugal and António Pascoal, LARSyS-IST, Portugal.

The keynote speeches were delivered by:

  • Manuel Heitor, Portuguese Minister of Science and Technology and Higher Education
  • Admiral Mendes Calado, Portuguese Navy Chief of Staff
  • Miguel Miranda, Director Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA)
  • Rear-Admiral Ventura Soares, Director of the Portuguese Hydrographic Institute.
Fig.2 Plenary Sessions: Speakers. First row left – Prof. Pedro Madureira (Plenary 1); first row right – Scientist Dana Yoerger (Plenary 2); second row left – Scientist Irena Radić Rossi (plenary 3); second row right – Researcher Filipe Castro (plenary 3); third row left – Prof. Stefan Williams (plenary 4); third row right – Senior Scientist Sandy Thomalla (plenary 5); fourth row left – Marine Robotics team presentation (plenary 6); fourth row right – Eurofleets team presentation (plenary 6).

Plenary sessions

OCEANS 2021 Porto virtual component included  six plenaries:

Plenary 1 – 21st September, 10:00-11:00 am

“The challenges of deep-sea exploration”, by Pedro Madureira, Task Group for the Extension of the Portuguese Continental Shelf, Portugal

Plenary 2 – 21st September, 15:00-16:00 pm

“Exploring the seafloor and the midwater ocean with robots is a human adventure”, by Dana Yoerger, Senior Scientist, Dept of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA

Plenary 3 – 22nd September, 08:00-09:00 am

“The Post-Mediaeval Shipwreck of Gnalić (Croatia) in the light of new discoveries”, by Irena Radić Rossi, Univ. Zadar, Croatia.

“Healthy Oceans and Maritime Cultural Heritage”, by Filipe Castro, Researcher, Centre for Functional Ecology – Science for People & the Planet (CFE), Univ. Coimbra, Portugal

Plenary 4 – 23rd September, 08:00-09:00 am

“Challenges in Deploying Robust Autonomy for Robotic Exploration in Marine Environments”, by Stefan Williams, School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Sydney, Australian Centre for Field Robotics, Australia

Plenary 5 – 23rd September, 10:30-11:30 am

“Using integrated glider experiments to understand the scale sensitivity and variability of the Southern Ocean carbon system”, by Sandy Thomalla, Principal Scientist, Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observatory (SOCCO), CSIR, Cape Town, South Africa.

Plenary 6 – 23rd September, 16:30-17:30 am

“Marine Robotics in the Framework of European Research Infrastructure Programs” by the following panel of presenters:

  • Jan Opberdecke, Unit for Underwater Systems at Ifremer, France
  • João Borges de Sousa, Underwater Systems and Technologies Laboratory – LSTS, FEUP, Portugal
  • Pere Ridao, Underwater Robotics Lab, Univ. Girona, Spain
  • António Pascoal, LARSyS, IST, Univ, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Niamh Flavin, Marine Institute, Galway, Ireland
  • Rafel Garcia, Underwater Vision Lab, Univ. Girona, Spain
  • Agnès Robin, European Commission, EU
Fig 3 The Portuguese Minister of the Sea, Dr. Ricardo Santos.

Special San Diego-Porto joint session followed by a UN presentation and expert panel discussion.

OCEANS 2021 San Diego – Porto organized a joint session that  culminated with a UN presentation and a UN Decade of the Oceans Expert Panel Discussion. The first part of the joint event counted with the participation of Dr. Ricardo Santos, the Portuguese Minister of the Sea, who gave a presentation highlighting the much needed connection between marine science and technology and the economy of the sea. Dr. Ricardo Santos offered his vision of what lies ahead of us in terms of national and international programs and, based on his experience as a member of the Executive Planning Committed for the Decade, provided a soft transition to the ensuing UN Presentation / Special UN Session.

Fig.4 Closing Session Speakers (Chairs and Technical Committee) . First row left – Prof. Fausto Ferreira; first row right – Prof. João P. Gomes ; second row left – Prof. Antonio Pascoal; second row right – Prof. Eduardo Silva; third row left – Prof. João Sousa; third row right -Prof. Anibal Matos.

Closing session

The OCEANS 2021 Porto virtual component closed with some final remarks by the three Co-Chairs, João Sousa, Eduardo Silva, and Antonio Pascoal,  one of the Technical Committee Co-Chairs  Fausto Ferreira, and Juan Carlos Luque, Univ.Nacional De San Agustín de Arequipa, Peru on behalf of traditionally  underrepresented countries.

Reaching out to underrepresented countries: a Porto initiative

A sizable number of countries continue to have reduced presence in the OCEANS conferences, notwithstanding the excellent quality of the work pursued in a large number of highly reputed national institutions. The reason for this is manifold and defies a simple analysis. We felt strongly that our community as a whole would benefit enormously from a more representative participation of such countries with a view to knowing each other better and to give impetus to cooperative actions at the scientific, technical, commercial, environmental, and societal levels. As a contribution to meeting this goal, we encouraged the participation of what, for the lack of a better word, we may call under-represented countries, as a means to engage into fruitful discussions with groups therein that are keen to broaden their horizons on marine-related affairs and have taken solid steps in this direction. In a nutshell, a small but solid step towards a more inclusive Oceans community. This is especially relevant at a time when we are witnessing the call for intensive cooperation worldwide as envisioned in the implementation plan of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, 2021-2030.

Fig 5 Prof. Juan Carlos Luque from Peru, who attended on behalf of traditionally underrepresented countries.

In line with the above, we warmly invited our colleagues from traditionally under-represented countries to participate actively in the virtual component of OCEANS 2021: San Diego – Porto, hosted in Portugal by attending the technical and plenary sessions remotely, and participate in round-table discussions. As a token of encouragement and appreciation for their participation, we offered to waive, in cooperation with San Diego, the registration fees for a number of attendees from selected institutions from under-represented countries. The initiative attracted interest from a number of participants in Brazil, Peru, Russia, South Africa and Ivory Coast, Pakistan, and India. some of which attended a special session aimed at analyzing the impact of the initiative and recommending further steps to increase attendance of researchers from underrepresented  countries in future editions of OCEANS.

The future

The Oceans community has been growing significantly over the last decade and is expected to continue growing at an accelerated pace. The OCEANS 2021 San Diego Porto conference explored uncharted waters in terms of hybrid formats and engagement of the worldwide community. The lessons learned from this conference and the innovative initiatives that were undertaken will certainly help shape the format of future events.