France is at the heart of maritime stakes both in full expansion and constant evolution. In a context of multipolar views, of growing scarcity of earth resources and rising energy costs, economy, environment, security, energy concerns and defense at sea are all at stake.
Ever since the publication of the Green Paper in 2006 as a result of the reflections of the European Union about the sea, the French and EU maritime policy has tried to bring an answer to these issues. In spite of real progress, the concrete conclusions still remain scattered and reveal an approach essentially based on land.
A reality which seems to result from a lack of knowledge of the maritime reality.
The erratic presence of the sea in our governments reveals the difficulty to contemplate the overall maritime stakes on the long term. In spite of being the second sea surface in the world, France remains essentially turned towards land. Still, the constant efforts of the General Secretary for Maritime Affairs (Prime Minister’s Office) and the French Maritime Cluster to make this trend evolve are to be taken into account.
The ocean is poorly known by mankind whereas it connects all continents, affects all the fields of human activity and takes part in all the mechanisms at the origin of life on earth.
With 11 million km², the French maritime territory is bigger than metropolitan Europe. It is extremely diversified with sea fronts on the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Channel and the North Sea, plus overseas territories in the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Antarctic.
In 2010, the maritime economy of France represented 300,000 direct jobs and a turnover of 51 billion Euros, the tourism sector excluded.
The future of France depends, among others, on the sea as far as resources and ecosystems are concerned, but also as trade spots: 80% commercial trade transit by sea and are bound to increase in a worldwide context. Insuring the safety of supplies and strategic routes is vital for our economic development. However, apart from the traditional sectors of the Navy and fishing, the sea is not, instantly, contemplated as a development opportunity even though it largely provides for employment.
Political visions are fed on history and facts interpretation. On land, there are multiple political visions which rely on a shrewd knowledge of history, all the more since most of the studies on human history are focused on land activities. On the contrary, there only exist scraps of maritime history which has never been unified in a worldwide maritime history. In order to reverse this trend, a solution consists in studying the earth’s maritime history over five thousand years on five continents. Such is Oceanides’ ambition.
Oceanides is a scientific research project, an educational plan and a humanistic plan all the same. It is meant for policymakers who will find arguments for seeing in the sea the solutions for our future, for the teachers who will find suitable pedagogical contents, for the students who are looking for basic information on maritime geopolitics, history and economy, for scientific writers who will be able to rely on a serious, complete study, for the youth who will discover the world of oceans, for the “bystanders” and the passionate who will be given by Oceanides a matter full of rich lessons.
Oceanides is a world-wide research plan aiming at bringing the scientific evidence of the importance of the sea in the main stages of evolution of the populations and consequently of their influence and their wealth.
For the first time ever, more than 300 researchers from the 5 continents are studying for 5 years, 5 thousand years of maritime history, spanning 4 main periods in the history of mankind: Antiquity, the Middle Ages, early Modern (to 1789) and the contemporary period.
Their studies will cover the whole of the fields of interaction between man and the sea -economy, culture, society, geopolitics- and will give birth, among other things, to publications which will come out in 2017.
This research programme will attempt to answer simple questions, both universal and timeless: Does the maritime fact really make the difference in the evolution of peoples? Which surplus has the sea brought to the human groups which turned to it? How does turning to the sea permit to exploit at their best the demographic potential, the geographical, political and financial situation or the scientific knowledge in order to create a driving force of development and power?
The enlightenments on the role of the sea that the studies of the Oceanides plan will bring aim at nourishing the thought and enlarging the knowledge in a humanistic and progressive perspective.
By providing knowledge and an analysis of the facts, Oceanides will also contribute to the advent of a common maritime culture. Oceanides will thus permit to enrich the global policy of seas, an essential condition to be in a position to explore new prospects of economic and social developments or to seize future opportunities and favour employment.
The studies brought by the scientists of the Oceanides plan will be a source of information and education intended to the youth and the future generations.
By bringing the historical demonstration of the place of the sea, Oceanides will also bring the new knowledge necessary to the schedule of new academic programmes in which the role of the sea would from then on be included in every discipline.
To that end, new pedagogical tools will be developed and put at teachers’ disposal in order to facilitate their work of transmission.
The knowledge nurtured by Oceanides will offer tools permitting to understand the geopolitical stakes of their expanding zones or to have better definition of some risks, for example, those linked to piracy. The firms will also be in a position to benefit from trainings on political economic and cultural maritime problems, essential assets within the context of their international lobbying or negotiations.