Comment: Floating cities05 February 2020

The November 2019 issue of Operations Engineer featured an interview with new SOE patron Sir John Parker, a near 60-year veteran of industry who started his career in shipbuilding. Among other comments, he said: “Ships have every engineered system; they are floating cities. They have their own electricity, their own sewerage system, their own hot and cold water and their own accommodation. Providing it all is a huge mass of systems engineering.”

That comment, in truth, has inspired the cover story of this issue (, which looks at the on-board water systems of different vessels, including RRS Sir David Attenborough (SDA). This research ship will be used for months at a time by scientists who are researching oceans, ice and atmosphere. It is fitting then that RRS SDA is also taking its environmental responsibility seriously through a ballast treatment unit.

The implementation of this system follows the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (, which entered into force in 2017 and introduced global regulations to control the transfer of potentially invasive marine organisms. They can have devastating consequences on local ecosystems, altering and degrading the environment, and negatively impact native species and people.

Onshore facilities adhere to a range of environmental regulations and standards, so a convention for vessels surrounding the transfer of marine organisms is most welcome. If we’re to protect our planet, we must take environmental protection seriously, and it is great to see that RRS SDA, like many other vessels, I’m sure, is playing its part and adhering to standards.

Adam Offord

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