Cabinet Approves ‘Deep Ocean’ Mission To Explore Ocean Resources

New Delhi:  The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved the ‘Deep Ocean’ mission to develop deep sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources.

The proposal for the multi-institutional ambitious mission was moved by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

The estimated cost of the mission will be Rs 4,077 crore for a period of five years, and it will be implemented in a phase-wise manner. The estimated cost for the first phase for three years (2021-2024) would be Rs 2,823.4 crore.

The Deep Ocean mission will be a mission mode project to support the Blue Economy Initiatives of the government. The MoES will be the nodal ministry for implementing this mission.

The mission consists of six major components that include development of technologies for deep sea mining and manned submersible; development of ocean climate change advisory services; technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep sea biodiversity; deep ocean survey and exploration; energy and fresh water from the ocean; and advanced marine station for ocean biology.

A manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean with scientific sensors and tools. Only a very few countries have acquired this capability.

An integrated mining system will be also developed for mining Polymetallic Nodules from 6,000 metre depth in the central Indian Ocean.

The exploration studies of minerals will pave way for the commercial exploitation in the near future, as and when commercial exploitation code is evolved by the International Seabed Authority, an UN organisation.

This component will help the Blue Economy priority area of exploring and harnessing of deep sea minerals and energy.

Under the mission, a suite of observations and models will be developed to understand and provide future projections of important climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales under this proof-of-concept component. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of coastal tourism.

Bio-prospecting of deep sea flora and fauna, including microbes, and studies on sustainable utilisation of deep sea bio-resources will be the main focus of the mission. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of marine fisheries and allied services.

The primary objective of this component is to explore and identify the potential sites of multi-metal Hydrothermal Sulphides mineralisation along the mid-oceanic ridges in Indian Ocean. This component will additionally support the Blue Economy priority area of deep sea exploration of ocean resources.

Studies and detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plants are envisaged in this proof-of-concept proposal. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of off-shore energy development.

The Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology component of the mission is aimed at developing human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering. This component will translate research into industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities. It will support the Blue Economy priority area of marine biology, blue trade and blue manufacturing.

The technologies required for deep sea mining have strategic implications and are not commercially available. Hence, attempts will be made to indigenise technologies by collaborating with leading institutes and private industries.

A research vessel for deep ocean exploration would be built in an Indian shipyard which would create employment opportunities. This mission is also directed towards capacity development in marine biology, which will provide job opportunities.

In addition, design, development and fabrication of specialised equipment, ships and setting up of required infrastructure are expected to spur the growth of the Indian industry, especially the MSMEs and startups.