John Watson, FIEEE, OES Vice-President for OCEANS
In January of this year we were all looking forward to OCEANS in Singapore – registrations were made, flights reserved, accommodation booked… and then without much warning it all came collapsing down around us as we began to realise the significance and impact of the COVID-19 virus. Firstly, we hoped that a postponement of the Singapore meeting to August or September might get us through the crisis; but we soon realised that, as many countries imposed lockdowns for residents and forbade foreign travel, we were facing an entirely new situation in our lives. Even the Gulf Coast event scheduled for October now became at risk.
So, what are we doing? In conjunction with our MTS colleagues we have devoted considerable time and energy into developing new approaches that will enable us to keep OCEANS as one of the premier events in the Oceanic Engineering and Science calendar. Many of you will have noticed that we have joined the Singapore and Gulf Coast events together into one composite GLOBAL conference, which will be run entirely as a virtual event. On a positive side, this has actually given us the opportunity to look at OCEANS Conferences with fresh eyes; to adopt new approaches as to how an OCEANS is conducted while still retaining the traditional “family atmosphere” of OCEANS. Our two Singapore and Gulf Coast organising committees have joined forces, and are enthusiastically putting in an enormous amount of effort to bring you an outstanding conference; one that, while different in many aspects, still retains as much of the traditional OCEANS flavour that you have come to expect. So get onto the Global OCEANS 2020: Singapore – U.S. Gulf Coast web-site and see what is happening, (https://global20.oceansconference.org/global-oceans-2020/.
Following the Global Virtual event, the next two OCEANS for 2021 are Porto and San Diego. It is too early to say in detail how the virus pandemic will affect these meetings, but it is true that there will be some considerable impact and knock-on effects. The Porto management team are already considering what they term a “hybrid” conference: one that combines elements of person-to-person with aspects of virtual content. The San Diego group are also considering how much virtual content can be adopted into their programme, but are still hoping for a largely traditional face-to-face event. What is certainly clear is that both of these meetings will be novel in their own right.
Both Gulf Coast and Singapore person-to-person meetings have been rescheduled for 2023 and 2024 respectively. This has meant some rearrangements of the OCEANS schedule, however Chennai and Hampton Roads are still on schedule for 2022.
So, in these uncertain times, as Vice-President of OCEANS Conferences and Expositions, I urge you to continue to support OCEANS and attend in whatever manner works for you. OCEANS may never be the same again, but regardless of the format, your technical societies will be there to ensure that we continue to bring everyone together, in whatever fashion, to support the advancement and exchange of ocean technology! Stay tuned!