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Shell to Build Its Largest Floating Platform in Gulf
Royal Dutch Shell plc has decided to advance the Appomattox deepwater development in the Gulf of Mexico. This decision authorizes the construction and installation of Shell’s eighth and largest floating platform in the Gulf. The Appomattox development will initially produce from the Appomattox and Vicksburg fields, with average peak production estimated to reach approximately 175,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day. Shell is currently the only operator in the Gulf of Mexico with commercial deepwater discoveries in this formation, which dates back 150 to 200 million years ago to the Jurassic period. The company continues active exploration in the area. The sanctioned project includes capital for the development of 650 million boe resources at Appomattox and Vicksburg, with start-up estimated around the end of this decade. The development of Shell’s recent, nearby discoveries at the Gettysburg and Rydberg prospects remains under review.

Nominations Open for Peter Benchley Ocean Awards
The call for nominations for the annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards is now open. The awards honor outstanding achievement across many sectors of society leading to the protection of the ocean, coasts and the communities that depend on them. The next Benchley Ocean Awards will be held May 20, 2016 at California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium. Award winners thus far come from a broad range of ocean categories, including: national stewardship, science, policy, media, solutions, exploration, youth and activism. The selection committee is focused on recognizing truly exceptional efforts, therefore, not all categories are awarded each year. Nominations will be accepted through November 20, 2015.

Marcia McNutt Could be First Woman to Lead NAS
Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt (Sea Technology, January 2013), a geophysicist who has served as editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals since 2013, was nominated to stand for election as the next president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). If elected, as expected, McNutt would become the first woman to head NAS. McNutt would take the helm on July 1, 2016, when the current president, Ralph J. Cicerone, ends his second term. Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist, has served as president since 2005. McNutt plans to remain at the helm of the Science journals until she formally takes the NAS post. McNutt has served previously as the head of the U.S. Geological Survey, president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and a professor at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Formal ratification of McNutt’s NAS nomination would be December 15.

Malaysia Government Ends Search Contract for MH370
Phoenix International Holdings Inc. was directed by DRB-HICOM Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd on behalf of the government of Malaysia to end the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) in the Southern Indian Ocean. Since October 2014, Phoenix and teammates from Hydrospheric Solutions, Inc. (HSI) and GO Marine have been working around the clock to find MH370, which was presumably lost in the Southern Indian Ocean, approximately 1,500 miles west of Perth, Australia. Working aboard GO Phoenix, a DP2 vessel owned by GO Marine, Phoenix and Hydrospheric personnel deployed the SLH PS-60 (ProSAS-60), a 6,000-m-depth-rated synthetic aperture sonar towed system, in the search for MH370. The team worked through severe weather conditions and tropical cyclones that plague the Southern Indian Ocean during winter. The team was able to collect and analyze a significant amount of sonar data covering more than 90 percent of their assigned search area. The entire MH370 international search team organization, under the leadership of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), has searched more than 50,000 km2 of seafloor.

Europe’s Deepest Glider in Development
Nineteen partners from across Europe will develop Europe’s first ultradeep-sea robot glider, which will be capable of sampling the ocean autonomously at depths of 5,000 m, and maybe more in the future, for up to three months at a time. This project, which includes the U.K. National Oceanography Centre (NOC), has won €8 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon2020 program for development and testing. The capability of this new glider to reach at least 75 percent of the ocean will open up new possibilities for science and industry, including monitoring submarine biodiversity and conducting environmental impact assessments for potential seabed mining and exploration. For example, the new glider will be able to detect the presence of sediment plumes created by mining processes by using novel sensors developed by the NOC and housed in the nose of the glider. These plumes are an important element of the submarine ecosystem. The final test is due to take place in September 2019 off southeast Ireland to accurately quantify the risk of the glider failing under particular conditions.

UN to Develop Marine Biodiversity Conservation Treaty
The U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a formal resolution to develop a legally binding treaty for the conservation of marine biodiversity on the high seas. The new ocean regulations would include: area-based management tools, such as marine planning and marine protected areas; environmental impact assessment requirements; the transfer of marine technology; and a regime for managing marine genetic resources. These developments have potentially significant implications for ocean economic activities, such as shipping, oil and gas, cruise tourism, fishing, marine mining, biotechnology, submarine cable, and related sectors, such as maritime law, insurance and investment. The resolution calls for a two-year preparatory process in 2016 to 2017 to develop the treaty elements.

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