Another year of action and impact

19 Dec 2022 | Dan Benham

2022 was another eventful year for the Sea Ranger Service, growing our impact for people and nature whilst further showcasing how entrepreneurship can achieve scalable solutions to regenerate our planet. Here is a short round up.

New class of Sea Rangers

The beginning of 2022 saw most countries doing their best to come out of further winter lockdowns, and put the Covid-19 situation behind us. For us to have weathered this most unusual two year long storm was not only proof of our working business plan, it is also evidence that there is a strong need for our work in the North Sea.

From the start of the year our new Sea Rangers, the result of another successful Sea Ranger Bootcamp at the end of 2021, worked with us fulltime throughout the year. They began with initial training in the cold, early months of the year, and started delivering on contracted assignments in spring. 

Government assignments

From mid-April, Sea Rangers were back out at sea to start work on a number of Dutch government assignments. The first task was the start of a new two-year programme to monitor protected maritime heritage in the North Sea. After the conclusion of a 3 year collaborative pilot with The Information and Heritage Inspectorate, the new follow-up work focuses on Sea Rangers covering shipwreck sites and surveilling for potential illegal salvaging operations, which increasingly disturb wrecks and the unique pockets of marine biodiversity which they harbour.

At the height of summer Sea Rangers conducted another successful pilot in collaboration with the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate; using drones to monitor container ships entering and leaving Dutch ports for heightened pollution risks.  Drones were launched from the Sea Ranger Service ship and inspections carried out to improve shipping safety.

Accelerating ocean innovations

After Sea Rangers assisted Project Seagrass with seagrass mapping in the UK in 2021, throughout 2022, preparations have been ongoing to let Sea Rangers play a more structural role in assisting in large-scale seagrass restoration. As a form of climate mitigation, since seagrasses act as natural carbon sinks, such work could have strong biodiversity and climate impact. A new consortium of seagrass scientists, universities and government agencies was co-founded by the Sea Ranger Service in 2022, on which more will be announced in 2023.

Another innovation trial was the testing of hydrographic mapping equipment from the Sea Ranger Service sailing vessel Fantastiko. Organised in collaboration with the Dutch Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz, the pilot focused on validating whether hydrographic surveying (often used to carry out costly environmental assessments at sea) could be carried out cost-effectively and without the associated pollution, from a sailing vessel. The initial results were promising and a further pilot is planned for 2023.

Social business accreditation

In April, the Sea Ranger Service was also granted the Dutch Code Social Enterprise accreditation, validating the governance, financial safeguards and social mission objectives of the Sea Ranger Service as a social business. The accreditation ensures social impact investors and supporters can trust in vetted mission-driven companies adhering to strict social impact conditions.

Championing women

Celebrating and improving diversity is important and despite a strong gender imbalance in the seafaring sector, the Sea Ranger Service continues to hire along an equal gender balance. Founder Wietse van der Werf argued in an opinion piece in The Economist that this gender gap in ocean-based careers needs to be urgently addressed. 

Sea Ranger Service director Christel Pullens also contributed to the #BreakTheBias campaign to highlight the need for more women in the maritime sector and how women Sea Rangers are breaking the mould and paving the way for others. Despite only 1% of seafarers globally being women, 72% of Sea Ranger applicants since 2018 have been young women; a rare chance to close the gender gap in the sector.

State of the Service

The end of September saw our annual hybrid State of the Service event. Close to 100 attendees, including partners, clients and investors joined us online and in person at the KNRM lifeguard station in the Port of Scheveningen for our biggest event to date. As celebration of our wider community, the team’s achievements and a brief look to the future, it was a chance to showcase our otherwise somewhat hidden activities at sea. We are grateful to the KNRM for their support in hosting the event. 

Launching the franchising

In March we took the exciting step of launching the Sea Ranger Academy; our bespoke franchising programme, initially aimed at starting franchises in France and Spain, then further afield beyond Europe in the years to come. Social entrepreneurs can apply and be supported to set up their own Sea Ranger Service by entering the academy training, subsequently creating social and biodiversity impact in their own region.

In the media

In February we were featured by Euronews, whose film crew from their Ocean show came aboard the Fantastiko and sailed with us for two days while we undertook some of our routine climate research. Watch the resulting feature here. Sea Rangers also joined the EU4Ocean festival, where they spoke of their experiences of working onboard an ocean conservation ship.

Throughout March and April, Dutch TV broadcast Uit Het Rood, a series on young people with debts, followed a participant who stepped onboard the Sea Ranger Service vessel. The series, produced by KRO-NCRV, put a spotlight on how increasing numbers of young people get a false start in life as they struggle with high debts.

We also had various other features in the press, including this great one from Smiley Movement.

Our amazing supporters

Throughout the year, different partners raised funds for the Sea Ranger Service, for which we are very grateful. In January, the One Ocean Crew won the Merlin Cup by rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in just over 4 weeks, raising awareness and donations for the work of the Sea Rangers. In June, the Dutch student rowing association ORCA raised further funds during a national rowing race. October saw the 50 year anniversary of manufacturer Matecs, who used the occasion to raise contribution from their suppliers and partners, making available a financial contribution to support the Sea Rangers’ work. We also acknowledge the ongoing support from all of our partners who continue to make our work possible. Thank you!

Looking ahead

Going into the quieter winter months the team is taking time to reorganise operational processes, implementing enhanced safety protocols, taking care of ship maintenance and preparing for the new group of Sea Rangers and start of a new sailing season from May 2023.

This year we said goodbye to some of our long serving staff, including Eefje Verhoeven, Marijke Stamatiou and Christel Pullens. We would like to express a heartfelt thanks for their contributions to push the Sea Ranger Service ahead with their skills and dedication. We also celebrate the promotion of Josefien Krijgsman, who joined as a Sea Ranger in 2018 and was promoted to a First Mate this year after she successfully completed her advanced training. Way to go Josefien!

We look forward towards an exciting new year and are in the process of recruiting new candidates for the Sea Ranger Bootcamp, which will take place again in March 2023.  We can’t wait to welcome the new crew onboard and stay on course towards growing impact for people and the planet. Go Sea Rangers!