Miles below the surface, a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) or underwater robot is exploring the ocean floor. The ROV may be taking pictures, collecting samples of the ocean floor, recovering treasures from a shipwreck, or performing repairs on an underwater structure such as an oil platform.
In the tragic BP oil spill of 2010, underwater robots were the first on-scene to try to fix the spewing oil pipe. Every instrument, device, and process in an ocean environment is the responsibility of ocean engineers. These engineers are at the top of their game because the ocean environment is so corrosive, volatile, and changeable. Waves are never-ending and the devices or gear that is used to explore the marine environment must be able to withstand the “typical” forces of Mother Nature, such as high winds, never-ending waves, and saltwater.
Ocean engineering is a fast growing and dynamic field with opportunities that are expanding as people turn to the oceans for food, transportation, and energy. One of the great things about ocean engineering is that many different types of engineers can work together to find solutions for ocean infrastructure, research, and utilization. Ocean engineering integrates disciplines such as oceanography, materials science, and mechanical, civil, computer, software, marine, chemical, electrical and electronics engineering. In addition to creating ROVs, ocean engineers develop underwater structures, oil rigs, wave buoys for data collection; and they are hard at work developing ways to capture the energy of waves and turn it into electricity. They develop transportation systems, plan new uses for waterways, design deep-water ports, and integrate land and water transportation systems and methods. They are concerned with discovering, producing, and transporting offshore petroleum, and developing new ways to protect marine wildlife and beaches against the unwanted consequences of offshore oil production and storm erosion.
Ocean engineers study all aspects of the ocean environment to determine people’s influence on the oceans and the ocean’s effects on ships and other marine vehicles and structures. The work is global in nature and has never been more important because these professions connect people and places in a way that is unmatched by other engineering careers. Think of the planet Earth as one big web of biodiversity that connects us to all living things. Many people may say that the United States and Japan are separated by the Pacific Ocean. However, in the maritime industry, they say that the oceans connect them.
For more information on engineering careers in the maritime industry, pick up a copy of The Maritime Engineer: Careers in Naval Architecture and Marine, Ocean and Naval Engineering.