ABB technology helping turn the tide on ocean pollution

The research behind the By the Ocean We Unite (BTOWU) initiative to raise awareness of the plastic pollution at sea is accessible to the public, thanks to ABB Ability™ Marine Advisory System – OCTOPUS.

Over 80 percent of plastics found in our oceans come through wind and waterways far removed from the coast, according to Netherlands-based organization By the Ocean We Unite. Every year about eight billion kilograms of plastic ends up in the ocean damaging the environment and entering the food chain. More than 200 species of animals have been documented ingesting plastic. BTOWU wants to turn the tide of ocean pollution and OCTOPUS, ABB’s performance management system for marine operations, is helping it lead the way.

ABB Ability™ Marine Advisory System – OCTOPUS is a digital solution that helps vessel owners gather and analyze data from onboard sensors in real time, allowing for optimized operations, improved safety of crew and cargo, and maximizing the fuel efficiency. ABB Ability™ is the company’s unified, cross-industry offering extending from device to edge to cloud, integrating data to and from products, systems, solutions and services to deliver actionable information. 

Over the past year, OCTOPUS has been pivotal in planning the route of Fantastiko, a 26-meter long two-masted ketch used by BTOWU for sea sailing expeditions in the North Sea and the Wadden Sea

The Fleet Portal, an OCTOPUS solution that sends reports from the vessel to a central database server accessible from the internet, hosts manually entered data from the onboard OCTOPUS system. This includes the information about the types of plastics found, as well as voyage and weather data. During expeditions, this data is accessible to visitors of the BTOWU website.

The OCTOPUS system with which Fantastiko was equipped during recent expeditions allows direct publication of survey results to the world through the expedition website. 

"The key aspect of our research expeditions is to present our findings to as many people as possible,” says Dr Nanne van Hoytema, scientific research coordinator at BTOWU. “ABB’s OCTOPUS system allows us to share our research with our social media audiences as we are measuring our findings and giving the people at home a direct link to us at sea. This is a great help in bringing our experiences at sea into people's daily lives."

Samples collected by Fantastiko during expeditions in the North Sea and the Wadden Sea were analyzed by experts at Wageningen University, revealing abundant plastic pollution. This data has also been to the global dataset of the 5 Gyres institute, a non-profit organization focused on reducing plastic pollution, giving an in-depth overview of marine litter concentration in the region.

Samples from the beaches and sea floor around the Croatian island of Silba also showed similar pollution. A study of the Mexican coast not only revealed high levels of plastic pollution, but also rampant seaweed growth due to nutrient run-off that was an eyesore for tourists and potentially harmful for the local turtle population. 

BTOWU uses these findings to address wide audiences – from primary school students to world leaders, politicians and scientists. The BTOWU team holds lectures to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean, as well as attends high-profile events such as the World Ocean Summit, to discuss their findings and potential future solutions for stopping marine litter. 

Media enquiries:

Margarita Sjursen

Global Communications Manager
ABB Marine & Ports
Bergerveien 12
1396 Billingstad


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