Ocean research and observation requires substantive infrastructure including research vessels, scientific instruments, buildings, commodities (appropriate internet broadband, sustained electricity supply), etc. In addition to procurement these infrastructures are extremely costly to operate (e.g. research vessels) and to maintain. Especially for low-income economies these costs are difficult to cover and sustain. Donors can provide initial funding for procurement and operation for some time (5-10 years) but Member States should accept their responsibility for the maintenance and operation on the longer term.
While IOC is not in a position to finance large physical infrastructure (buildings, equipment, research vessels), IOC can assist in the enhanced access to such infrastructures at the regional level. Existing IOC global and regional programmes can encourage expanded access to and maintenance of key infrastructure for their programmes which will help broaden participation in, maintenance of, and benefits from these programmes to Member States.
It is recommended that these actions should be coordinated and implemented through the regional sub-commissions.
In order to have an overview of heavy research infrastructure available in Member State institutions IOC will explore the possibility to establish an online register of such infrastructures that could be made available for joint use. This should be done in consultation and collaboration with partners where available.
An example is the Eurofleets project in Europe which provides a European distributed research fleet infrastructure with common strategic vision and compensatory system of access to European marine research vessels and equipment. Another European example is the ESFRI initiative, which is a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach. The mission of ESFRI is to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe, and to facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to better use and development of research infrastructures, at EU and international level. Both Eurofleets and ESFRI work on a competitive and open access basis (namely through open calls for applications). The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) is an international research collaboration involving 26 countries that contribute financially to operate the IODP drilling platforms and common ships. IODP conducts seagoing expeditions to study the history of the Earth recorded in sediments and rocks beneath the seafloor.
Based upon the register described above, IOC should encourage, in consultation with Member States and other organizations concerned, mechanisms (preferably regionally) for facilitating access to infrastructure and assistance of its services, and to build capacity for the utilization of such infrastructure. Where appropriate IOC may facilitate collaboration among Member States in jointly acquiring and maintaining infrastructure and in efforts mobilizing required support from other sources.