December 2021 Beacon Events

OCEANS 2021 San Diego – Porto Report 1

In Person component, San Diego Conference report


The OCEANS 2021 San Diego portion of the hybrid conference, held at the Town and Country Resort, provided the attendees an in-person event with exhibits and the associated social gatherings. The Porto report on the virtual portion follows. Besides the standard technical program, the conference worked with the UN to coordinate the kickoff of the United Nations’ “Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030).” This was the 8th time the OCEANS conference has come to San Diego, a venue that has consistently provided the largest and most successful OCEANS conferences ever, and, considering the negative effect of the COVID virus, this one could be added to that list. To ensure the safety of the attendees, all state, city and facility requirements were met including temperature checks of attendees and colored wrist bands to identify the attendee’s level of desired interaction. This resulted in excellent attendee interaction without a single negative health issue arising.

In addition to the excellent technical program for which OCEANS is well known, OCEANS 2021 San Diego was structured with three key underlying categories of interest to all attendees:

“InFocus” – on the latest in new and emerging technologies

“InQuire” – on innovative research and science

“InVest” – investment strategies and spending priorities from high-level stakeholders and officials from the U.S. and international governments, the oil and gas industry,

Departments of Defense and Energy, local and federal regulatory agencies and a wide range of ocean industries.

The theme for OCEANS 2021 San Diego, “Sustaining our Oceans . . . Sustaining our Future,” reflected on the critical nature and importance of our industry and its sustaining technologies, which was the focus of many of the excellent technical sessions and panels, which included plenaries with talks from our three Honorary Co-chairs, which will be discussed later.  And we can give a special thanks to our local committee members who worked tirelessly to ensure a successful conference. They included:

Allan Kenny – Chair

Robert Wernli – Co-Chair

Barbara Fletcher – Technical Program Chair

David Velasco – Exhibits Chair

Brad Fisher – Exhibits Co-Chair

Leonard Pool – Arrangements Chair

Kevin Hardy – Special Session Coordinator

Bill Porto – Special Session Operations

Vladimir Djapic – Student Poster Competition Chair

Bonita Chamberlin – Student Volunteer Chair

Manu Ignatius – Social Media Chair

The Fun of a Hybrid Conference

Ice Breaker Reception

The decision to conduct a hybrid conference with Porto and San Diego sounded simple enough, but it was like doing three events, not one, or even two. You have the Porto and San Diego portions focused on virtual and in-person respectively, and then the interaction of the two events to include timing of sessions to allow some overlap such as the combined plenary on Wednesday. This also included the real time televising of all the San Diego plenaries and special sessions. However, with the help of both LOCs and our professional conference organizers, MCI, it all came together, with 862 attending in person in San Diego.

For San Diego, things kicked off on Sunday with a very successful golf tournament, organized by the local MTS Section, on a course next to the hotel. This was followed by a day of preparation on Monday that included society meetings, exhibitor move in, and the Ice Breaker reception at the hotel to some excellent hors d’oeuvres and music. The Ice Breaker was preceded by a Student Mixer reception which is done at each OCEANS to bring the students and professionals together in a relaxed environment.

Technical Program

The San Diego technical program included the standard technical paper tracks (which were not televised, but each author had to upload a short presentation for the virtual attendees). The Tuesday and Wednesday mornings started off with plenary sessions, and there were also workshops and special sessions throughout the three days, which are addressed below. And, following the morning plenaries, both societies held their annual society award meetings. The OES awards are addressed in a separate article in this issue of the Beacon. Overall, there were 92 in person technical papers given in 27 sessions and 2 technical posters. The student poster competition, discussed elsewhere in this issue, was judged virtually along with 5 in person.

Each of our Honorary Co-Chairs were invited to give a plenary presentation. These included the following:

Plenary presentation 1: Honorary Co-Chair Carly Jackson, NAVWAR Chief Technology Officer, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NIWC Pacific). Title: Naval approaches to sustaining our oceans, sustaining our future.

Plenary presentation 2: Combined plenary with Porto with a presentation by Richard Santos, Minister of the Sea, Portugal, who joined via zoom. Title: Ocean Innovation on the way to 2030.


Honorary Co-Chair Carly Jackson
San Diego – Porto Combined Plenary


Plenary presentation 3: Honorary Co-Chair Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, who joined via Zoom. Title: The Ocean Decade: creating science for a more sustainable future.

Plenary presentation 4: Honorary Co-Chair Dr. Margaret Leinen, Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Title: What will it take to have a ‘smart ocean’?


Honorary Co-Chair Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin
Honorary Co-Chair Dr. Margaret Leinen

There were also several Special Sessions. The first special session that followed Dr. Ryabinin’s plenary presentation, continued the discussion regarding the UN Ocean Decade:

UN Decade Panel (CW – virtual) Craig McLean, David Miller, Julian Barbiere, Jerome Aucan, Hannah Toerner;
In Person – Dr. Margaret Leinen

Title:  The UN Ocean Decade: Sustaining our Future for the Next 10 Years and Beyond.

  • Moderator (Govt and Intl Body): Craig McLean – Assistant Administrator NOAA Research & Member Decade Interim Advisory Board
  • Panelist 1 IOC: Julian Barbiere – Head, Marine Policy and Regional Implementation Section IOC
  • Panelist 2 (academia): Dr. Margaret Leinen – Honorary Chair of MTS San Diego Conference, Director of Scripps Institute of Oceanography & Member Decade Interim Advisory Board – virtual
  • Panelist 3 (endorsed Decade Programme): Jerome Aucan -Head Pacific Community Centre for Ocean Sciences (PCCOS)
  • Panelist 4 (ECOP): Hannah Toerner – Officer for Communications at the MTS ECOP Section, and the 2020’s recipient for the Ocean News and Technology Young Professional Award
  • Panelist 5 (Industry): David Millar – FUGRO Government Accounts Director, Americas

UN Decade Panel (CW – virtual) Craig McLean, David Miller, Julian Barbiere, Jerome Aucan, Hannah Toerner;

In Person – Dr. Margaret Leinen

The other special sessions and workshops included:

  1. Panel Discussion: The Role of Marine Robotics in Supporting a Sustainable Blue Economy

Session Convener:  Jake Sobin, Sales Manager, Ocean Science Sensors and Robotics, Kongsberg Underwater Technology

  1. Expert Panel/Town Hall: Discussion on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) in Marine Technology

Session convener:  Zdenka Willis, MTS

Session co-convener:  Kristina Norman, MTS

  1. Workshop: Town Hall: Opportunities for Marine Technology in Offshore Wind Development

Session convener:  Ruth Perry, Shell

Session co-convener:  Justin Manley

  1. Tech Demo: Instrument Configuration and Data Management Using RBR Ruskin software tools.

Session convener:  Daniel Nelson, RBR

  1. Connected Oceans with Bristlemouth: Bridging Public and Private Sector to launch Open Standard

Session convener:  Blanche Minoza, MissionC2

Co-convener:  Caroline Venza, MissionC2

  1. Title: Expert Panel: Hadal-class UUVs (Gliders, Landers, AUV, ROV)

Session convener:  Kevin Hardy

There were also two panels that addressed the young professionals and also women in engineering:

  1. Early Career Ocean Professionals Career advancement: From leadership to ECOPs
  1. Town Hall – Women Leadership in Ocean Science and Technology


There were 60 exhibitors spread in 70 exhibit booths, less than desired due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, however, those who did exhibit were very pleased with the conference. Although in person attendance was less than originally planned before COVID, those in attendance were generally more likely to influence the future purchases of products or support from the exhibitors. And, in the middle of the exhibit hall was the Innovation Theater, where our Patron exhibitors could present their technology to a live audience.

Robert Wernli, Alan Kenny, Brad Fisher and David Velasco officially open the San Diego Exhibits
The popular exhibitor’s Innovation Theater
Exhibit Hall
Fire Knife Dancer


Regardless of the long hours in technical sessions and exhibits, the end of the day on Wednesday was a tremendous success. Plenty of Polynesian food and beverages, Hawaiian dancers and Fire Knife Entertainment.

Alan Kenny and Leonard Pool get their hula lessons
Conference Chairs – Bob and Alan – and the Hawaiian Dancers