Holyrood councilor Gus Hawco sees big changes coming to his little town of 2,100 people at the southern end of Newfoundland’s Conception Bay. He talks of a plan that aims to make the town, about 40 minutes away from the capital city of St. John’s, develop a world-renowned reputation for ocean technology related business and research.
It’s not a secret, either. In October 2012, the councilor stood up in front of hundreds of area residents at an Eastern School District open board meeting, and told everyone that he, as chair of the Ocean Technology Advisory Board, would like to see Holyrood become a world-renowned centre of ocean technology, and the place to be for companies looking to do research or create an ocean business. It’s a plan that relies heavily on Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Marine Institute marine base in Holyrood.
Why bring it up at a school board meeting? Because it was Hawco’s main argument against proposed changes to Holyrood’s only elementary school, changes that were later abandoned by the school board. Hawco had told the crowd their town would need a quality school for the children of the well-educated parents whose ocean-based work would bring them to live in the town.
None of this would have happened if the Marine Institute hadn’t set up shop in Holyrood in 2010, when they opened the marine base. The large building sitting on cement piles over the ocean houses a variety of ocean technology related offices, projects, and labs. It’s phase one of a threepart plan for development that will, potentially, see the Marine Institute expand to include more buildings, construct a breakwater and develop the infrastructure needed to become a world-class ocean technology centre. For those familiar with ocean technology, the Marine Institute’s plan could see Holyrood become the Newfoundland version of Woods Hole, Massachusetts—home to an elite cluster of ocean technology companies. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, for example, is the world’s largest private, non-profit oceanographic research institution and a global leader in the study and exploration of the ocean.
It took Woods Hole decades to develop that reputation; Holyrood is hoping to accomplish the same thing in about five years.
For the town of Holyrood, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, says the town’s recently appointed director of oceans, Barry Snow. And it’s important that the town capitalize on the opportunity.
The Ocean Technology Advisory Board was established around the same time as the Marine Institute began phase one of their Holyrood development. The board includes representatives from all three levels of government, Memorial University, the Marine Institute, the Holyrood Marina, and ocean technology industry representatives. Their job was to provide high-level ideas and visioning for Holyrood’s nascent ocean technology sector. They worked mostly in the shadows of the public spotlight until recently, when the political roadshow came to town to make a funding announcement.
Both federal and provincial government representatives arrived in early January to announce each has granted $197,900 towards the town’s efforts to make the most of the Marine Institute’s plans. The funding announcement was the result of the advisory board’s work, and the latest chapter in Holyrood’s development as an ocean technology hub.
The town’s staff and council all realize they only have one chance to get this right, and they’re taking their time to do it properly. That means careful, planned steps and slow, measured growth. This won’t be a boom, but rather a crescendo.
It’s not clear yet how much the overall project will cost, or how it will be paid for.
According to Barry Snow, “Once a strategic plan is researched, written and presented to our stakeholders, the Town will embark on a multi-year business development plan to identify, engage and recruit ocean technology companies and researchers alike to consider Holyrood as a locale for expansion, as a locale to undertake individual ocean research projects or as a locale to permanently live, work and play.”
As for timelines, Snow said he’s unsure, but he talks in terms of five years. It all hinges upon development of the marine base, which is subject to Memorial University planning, and something Snow doesn’t want to speculate on.
The Marine Institute base is currently in the first of three phases. Once complete, if the architectural concept drawings are any indication, the view from Holyrood’s oceanfront boardwalk will be significantly changed. There will be more buildings alongside the current base, along with a breakwater and second wharf jutting into the bay to provide a protected area for boats.
At the same time, the recreational boating harbor on the other side of the bay also plans to expand their docking facilities.
It’s important to note, Snow says, that this base is only for ocean technology work. Marine sciences research will still be conducted out of Memorial University’s Logy Bay centre. But when it comes to the work being done here, Holyrood’s bay has benefits not found in other coastal areas. The bay is relatively well protected, being at the end of Conception Bay, and it has the benefit of being deep. The ocean f loor around Holyrood has also been completely mapped, which is an advantage for companies looking to do underwater work in the area. The marine base in Holyrood has, or plans to have, everything needed to become a centre of excellence in ocean research. Well, everything except the name.
“To say a centre of excellence is kind of true although we can’t use that term because it’s trademarked by the federal government,” said Snow. Finding an appropriate descriptor is also in the plans.
It’s still early—the planning has only just begun—but the arrival of the Marine Institute in Holyrood could be one of the best things to happen to the town in recent memory. It’s a sentiment Snow agrees with.
“From an economic diversification 101 point of view, it’s as good as it gets. It’s knowledge based, it’s clean, it’s scientific, it’s education. It ticks all the boxes.”
Defining ocean technology
Though the words marine technology and ocean technology are often used interchangeably, Holyrood is using ocean technology exclusively so as not to be confused with marine species or fisheries research. As a sub-sector of the greater oceans economy, ocean technology is defined as technologies for the safe use, exploitation, protection of, and intervention in the ocean environment. Ocean technologies are applied in naval architecture, marine engineering, ship design, ship building and ship operations; oil and gas exploration, exploitation, and production; hydrodynamics, navigation, sea surface and subsurface support, underwater technology and engineering; marine resources (including both renewable and non-renewable marine resources); transport logistics, coastal, short sea and deep sea shipping; protection of the marine environment and boating leisure and safety.
The primary industrial consumers of ocean technology goods and services are:
• Offshore oil and gas exploration, development and production
• Aquaculture, primary fishing and fish processing
• Shipbuilding, repair and water transportation
• Defence operations
The Holyrood value proposition:
• Onsite research and teaching facility with ocean access
• The Marine Institute’s worldrenowned Centre for Applied Ocean Technology Research is a permanent tenant of the Holyrood marine base (www. mi.mun.ca/ctec)
• Clean (physically and acoustically), sheltered harbor
• Seabed mapping of harbour already complete
• Onsite recreational marina
• Encompassing 125 sq. km., the Town has considerable space for industrial growth
• Well-positioned geographically: approximately half-hour drive to capital city of St. John’s and major projects (Long Harbour, Bull Arm).
• Strong municipal commitment to growing the ocean technology sector while maintaining the town’s cultural, recreational and social identifiers.
• Proactive engagement with partners and stakeholders including neighbouring municipalities, Memorial University/Marine Institute, the governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador and the province’s ocean technology cluster (Oceans Advance).