05 maio 2022

One Ocean Expedition on board of the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl

By Joanna Siekiera

Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen, Norway


The One Ocean Expedition is a circumnavigation by the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl. The main aim is to share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development in a global perspective. “One Ocean 2021-2023 Setting Sail for the Future” is a joint project by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its 2 main global bodies, namely the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (OC) and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The One Ocean Expedition is a recognized part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, happening now since 2021 until 2030, with the subtitle being “science we need for the ocean we want”. The scientific purpose of the One Ocean Expedition is primarily to educate future leaders, both global, regional and national, on achieving sustainable development for/through the ocean. Please mind the usage of the singular, as the authors of the project assume that there is one ocean, while not 4 or 5 (depending on the nomenclature) of them on Earth, as this maritime environment shares the same devastating effects of climate change. Secondly, it seems necessary to integrate the academia and those researchers and scientists who deals with the oceanography and maritime domains at different angles – like biologists, physicist, sociologists, anthropologist, and international lawyers specializing in the law of the sea.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl serves as a floating university and training vessel. Built in 1914 in Bergen, the tall ship brings students, scientists, trainees, and professionals together not only from its nationality, but also from every continent. Thus, its contribution of generating ocean research and providing a scientific platform for the development and dissemination of the broad spectrum of knowledge on ocean cannot be overestimated either in the Kingdom of Norway or in the world.

From August 2021 to April 2023, Statsraad Lehmkuhl will sail 55.000 nautical miles and visit 37 ports worldwide. During the One Ocean Expedition, the University of Bergen (Universitetet i Bergen, UiB) offers national and international students a unique opportunity to take a 4-month course on board, while the ship is in the Pacific Ocean. This sums up to a semester interdisciplinary course in sustainability. The name that the UiB rectorate has chosen is “SDG200: Ocean, climate, society”. The course will be run for the first time in the university’s history, from May to August 2022 on board the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, while the ship sails across the Pacific Ocean from Valparaíso in Chile to the Republic of Palau, a free association state under the Unites States governance.

The 3 main topics of the SDG200 course are ocean, climate and society, where during all classes students themselves play a central role and remain highly active. Students will be tasked to work in small groups and submit assignments both individually and as groups. Ocean part assumes learning on how we can both use and protect the maritime environment so that we contribute to sustainable development as outlined in the SDG Agenda 2030, including SDG14 – Life below water. Climate part focuses on understanding the underlying physical processes that govern climate variation on different time scales, as well as the consequences of climate change for society, and SDG13 – Climate action. Finally, society part pays attention to all sustainability challenges in social, cultural, and legal contexts, including in the Pacific.

And here comes the author’s interference. As an international lawyer specializing in the Pacific law and working at the UiB as a researcher on the law of the sea, Dr Joanna Siekiera will teach students on the route from the Republic of Fiji, via Solomon Islands up to Palau. Her legal section is divided into 5 core subjects: Public international law; the law of the sea; consequences of ocean change in domestic and international law; Pacific law and legal arrangements in the South Pacific; Pacific regionalism – political and legal harmonisation of Oceania.

As the One Ocean Expedition students will come from different countries and disciplines, the curriculum must be tailor for all, regardless of their basic (or rather lack of) legal knowledge. Also, the aim of the course is not to make the students maritime lawyers. Thus, it seems absolutely essential to familiarize the audience with the fundamental definitions and term in the discipline of law, as well as sensitize them on the biggest difference between the national and international legal orders. Only after that introduction, it is possible to discuss the role (and limits) of the law of the sea in combating legal consequences of ocean change, such as forced internal and external migration, losing parts of territory, including the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and thus sovereignty, and more. Specificity of the South Pacific region in the legal and political context will be discusses in the following, 3rd week on board. As law cannot be separated from politics, students will be taught about the growing geopolitical and geostrategic importance of this region, as well as the actual impact of ocean diplomacy, being a part of water diplomacy as a domain of science diplomacy. Finally, the author’s wishes to finalize the legal section with her own research on Pacific regionalism, that is political and legal harmonisation of Oceania, cooperation of the microstates where ocean change seems to be one of the key drivers of integration.

More on the One Ocean Expedition will be presented at the IBDMAR column as soon as the Statsraad Lehmkuhl will be moored to Palau [and the author will get connected to the internet after 2 months of sailing]. This unprecedented UiB course will not only give practical tools for the students, but will also enrich the crew and us, lecturers, living 24/7 all together on board, sharing all the human concerns and struggles. Yet, we are here to make the best of us for our ocean, one ocean.

See the official website of the One Ocean Expedition, where the current location of Statsraad Lehmkuhl is given:

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