Marine resources have been exploited throughout history but, up until the advent of the recovery of hydrocarbon fuels, the technology needed developed comparatively slowly. In a number of cases the technology developed for other requirements was adapted for use in the marine environment
Exploitation of the traditional resources, including offshore oil and gas, continued with little or no consideration being given to other forms of energy, minerals or biological resources. However, more recently, there has been an upsurge in interest in the longer term effect of the depletion of non-renewable on-shore resources and offshore hydrocarbons This has given an impetus to the consideration of other sources of minerals and energy and interest focused on the oceans of the world. It is now apparent that with the use of existing sophisticated equipment and techniques and, perhaps even more significantly, with the expected developments of technologies and novel equipment, this vast source of the oceans can be tapped
The exclusive economic zones (EEZs) defined bv the Law of the Sea Convention extend for 200 miles from the coast of maritime nations This gives those nations which do not have the benefit of an extensive continental shelf, as does the UK, rights to the exploitation of resources within this 200-mile limit It is envisaged that over the next few decades, the nations that declare an EEZ, or have extensive continental shelf rights, will want or, perhaps more importantly, need to explore these areas with a view to exploiting the very extensive resources that lie within them The technology and financial capabilities to carry out sophisticated surveying operations and, eventually, commercial recovery of the available resources at present lie within the advanced nations The UK marine equipment industry is among the world's leaders in a rapidly moving and intensely competitive international market and, as such, is able to take advantage of the potential export market for the supply of equipment and services for exploration and exploitation of resources The rate of advance in technology world-wide requires that to sustain its position the UK marine industry will need to maintain a high level and quality of innovation and develop the underlying technological capability required for the future It is envisaged that major commercial opportunities will arise in the provision of the equipment and services which contribute towards the exploration and exploitation of the potential resources Companies with the appropriate technological capabilities will be in the best position to take advantage of these opportunities
The Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Maritime Technology Committee (MTC) saw the concept ofmarine resources as a challenge which, if faced and overcome, could have far-reaching commercial benefits for the diverse UK industries concerned with the maritime sector With this in mind an Advisory Committee on Resources of the Sea (RSC) was set up to ‘review the current activities directed towards the exploration and exploitation of the marine resources and to develop an overall strategy and programme’.