Exploration vessel in town for Cop28 could help solve mysteries of Dubai waters

OceanX research vessel will be used to investigate local underwater ecosystems

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The OceanX exploration vessel is synonymous with uncharted waters but the vessel will call Dubai Harbour home until the end of the year.

The 87-metre vessel is currently in the emirate to coincide with the hosting of the Cop28 climate change conference.

Its latest mission is to unravel the mysteries of the region's underwater ecosystems, ultimately helping to provide a better understanding of the global impact of climate change.

The vessel, which can accommodate up to 72 people, will be venturing into local deep-sea coral reefs, studying microbes with extraordinary adaptations and observing elusive marine mammals.

State-of-the-art exploration vessel anchors in Dubai

State-of-the-art exploration vessel anchors in Dubai

Equipped with cutting-edge exploration technologies – including Triton deep-sea submersibles, remotely operated vehicles capable of exploring depths up to 6,000 metres – the ship serves as both an advanced floating research and science lab as well as a Hollywood-calibre media production studio that is being used for a National Geographic series produced by OceanX and BBC Studios Natural History Unit, with executive producer James Cameron of Titanic fame.

“We have scientists and media professionals on board the ship in our exploration missions. We visited the Red Sea from the Saudi side, France, Norway, Jordan and now the UAE,” Vincent Pieribone, co-chief executive of OceanX, told The National on Thursday.

Mr Pieribone said the company planned the expedition to the UAE a year in advance, as it represented a chance for them to attend Cop28 as an advocate of global ocean health.

“We decided to attend Cop28 and have events on the boat hosting more than 300 people through the vessel to show them the latest technologies,” he said.

OceanX aims to fuel discussion on ocean health by providing data that will help enable decision-making around sustainable ocean management and conservation as well as offer practical applications in addressing the challenges facing the world's oceans, he added.

“Scientists on board use molecular tools to understand marine ecosystems. We use eDNA, which is DNA found in water, to help scientific research,” said Mr Pieribone.

Environmental DNA, or eDNA, is the molecular material that all organisms leave behind in the ocean as they live or pass through a specific location.

“Even if we do not see these species, we can still check for the genetic traces they leave behind,” he said.

“This helps us look at the species present, find species difficult to locate, and map the biodiversity in a given area.”

Mark Dalio, founder and co-chief executive of OceanX, said they also host an educational programme with undergraduate scientists and media students.

“We saw an opportunity to help with education work by hosting students to learn about life on research vessels and using scientific tools with cutting-edge labs and engineering work,” Mr Dalio said.

“We provide governments, companies and civil society with the resources and knowledge they need to understand the impact of climate change on the ocean and take informed and responsible action to protect it.”

The officials emphasised that the vessel is built on the belief that the more the ocean is explored, the better the world can understand it and know how to care for it.

Updated: December 08, 2023, 10:33 AM