Saturday, November 3, 2001

Conference to address
marine technology

By Helen Altonn

Hawaii's tourism slump will be offset next week by an influx of about 1,500 visitors from around the world for OCEANS 2001, a conference focusing on marine technology.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism estimates the event Monday through Thursday will pump as much as $1 million into the economy, said John Wiltshire, associate director of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, University of Hawaii.

Wiltshire and Elizabeth Corbin, department marine programs specialist, are executive co-chairpersons of the international event at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Hosting conferences like OCEANS 2001 allows Hawaii to showcase its ocean and technology which, though not large, is of world-class quality, said Corbin, who promotes science and technology for the state. "World Class Hawaii" will be the theme of Hawaii's exhibit, she said.

Honorary co-chairmen are Adm. Thomas Fargo , commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Seiji Naya, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. They will open the session at 8 a.m. Tuesday in a traditional Hawaiian ceremony.

Conference organizers were concerned that terrorism threats would affect conference attendance, but only 43 people who paid have canceled, Wiltshire said.

The "premier ocean science and technology gathering in the United States" is sponsored annually at various locations by the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society and Marine Technology Society. It was last held here in 1991.

"What makes this one a little bit different is we've had very strong support from the U.S. Navy," Wiltshire said, noting Fargo's involvement. "He is very helpful, encouraging people to participate."

Sessions will cover navigation computer programs, autonomous underwater vehicles and a large range of sophisticated ocean technologies.

"With the current emphasis on sensors and detection, we have a lot of interest in that," Wilshire said, noting reports of unmanned planes used for detection in Afghanistan.

The same capabilities exist in the ocean, "probably more so," he said. "A lot of cutting-edge stuff will be featured at the meeting."

More than 450 papers and about 100 exhibitions of new technology will be presented.

A panel discussion will be held Tuesday on the Law of the Sea, which has become international law but hasn't been ratified by the United States.

Panelists on Wednesday will discuss "Ocean Exploration." Capt. Craig N. McLean, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Exploration, will chair the session.

Half-day sessions will be held throughout the week on life raft and emergency distress signals, digital signal processing in acoustics, technological developments for undersea exploration, ocean acoustics and synthetic aperture sonar applied to such things as mine detection and sea-floor mapping.

Developments in electronic navigation and undersea vehicle dynamics also will be discussed.

About 12 or 13 concurrent sessions will be held daily on technical diving in support of science, ocean energy, cables and connectors, coral reefs and other topics.

Tours are planned to the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, the Oceanic Institute on Oahu and the Natural Energy Laboratory on the Big Island.

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