The sea definitely permeates Singapore. Evaporated ocean makes your clothes stick to your skin after just a few minutes outside, and I’ve just flown in from Africa and so should be used to a bit of warmth. it doesn’t help that the city where the grandly-titled World Ocean Summit is happening isn’t built for walking. I managed to get as far as the harbour but to get across to Sentosa Island (a big, overblown Asian Disneyworld) required either car or train. Not far, just no place for a walker to walk.
The great and the good from the world of ocean governance are gathered here to talk about how to re-think how we value the sea and all it can provide us. Well, I say the Great but it’s mostly the Good. There’s a notable lack of big oil or big fishing companies in the delegates list, although China Fishing (one of the world’s biggest fishing companies) is a sponsor.
On the political side there’s a man who must have known he’d get a warm (perhaps even stickily so) reception at an NGO-rich gig like this (which has been organised by the Economist news rag): David Milliband. He might only be billed as the UK’s ex-Foreign Secretary but to many here he’s a hero for having green-lit the world’s biggest marine protected area in the world’s seas, that which surrounds the Chagos Islands in the indian Ocean.
An unusual participant/sponsor here is the America’s Cup team, here to boost their Healthy Ocean campaign. They’ve got an interesting looking contest coming up next year: a taster film showed them using catamarans engaging in full-contact ram-racing. Given the cost of those boats, just the sight of them breaking up will be dramatic. The thinking is that catamarans can sail in shallow water, allowing them to hold it in San Francisco Bay… and in sight of land!
This is Big New thinking for the America’s Cup, and their rep here says that it will allow them to open more people’s eyes to the ocean. Maybe. But he also acknowledged that without ‘democratisation’, this niche end of an already niche sport will die out, so it’s likely they need ocean conservation and its headlines as much as it needs them. It’s worth noting that the one billionaire America’s Cup racer who’s done the ocean a big favour recently – Ernesto Berterelli, who stumped up the costs of patrolling the aforementioned Chagos Islands – is not involved in the coming races.
Hoping for lots of juicy oceanic morsels here over the next couple of days. China’s State Oceanic Agency is here in force, which could be colourful as they’ve not usually been shy about where they see the ocean’s value… stay tuned!