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Interview: Joining the dots

2021-01-14 Namrata Nadkarni, Intent Communications
MSFD, NAVI, Katherine Cronin, sediments, deltares, CEDA

140121 katherine cronin // katherine-cronin_edited.jpg (197 K)
Caption: Dr Katherine Cronin is the chair for the MSFD NAVI group

The desire to blend knowledge with practical application has been a driving force for Dr Katherine Cronin, who is a senior consultant for Marine and Coastal Systems Unit of Deltares and has over 15 years of experience working on coastal and marine projects. Indeed, this desire to combine her work at a knowledge institute with policy development is what prompted her to apply for the position of chair for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)’s NAVI (Navigation) group - which is a role for an individual appointed by CEDA.

NAVI is a ‘thematic cluster’ of nine navigation sector bodies  that works as a non-lobby group to provide information to, and coordinate responses from, various players in the marine and inland, commercial and recreational navigation and dredging sectors. The MSFD is set up to provide Member States with guidance on how to determine what GES (Good Environmental Status) means for their seas and how it is impacted by economic activities, such as port maintenance and other dredging activities in marine waters. As such, incorporating the Directive may see Member States include mitigating measures and monitoring programmes as part of their Environmental Impact Assessments.

I had just become involved in the CEDA Environmental Commission when the opportunity opened up to chair the MSFD NAVI group, and I saw it as the perfect way to make that link between the dredging and port worlds and those of science and policy,” she tells CEDA Industry News, adding that she views the position as an opportunity to link state of the art developments in the field to public policy. “I believe that a close cooperation between the scientific world and that of industry and practitioners is important to identify and fill knowledge gaps and to optimise project execution whilst minimising environmental impacts.”

Widening scope

She is particularly keen to inform the dredging sector on the policy developments and guidelines developed in the EU Commission, a role that she views as very important given the expanding scope of the industry. “The dredging sector has been evolving in recent years towards the integration of nature-based approaches into traditional activities, as well as for coastal protection and restoration and linking to the circular economy to reduce impact,” she says, adding that innovative ways to repurpose and reuse sediment are receiving increased attention. [Editor’s note: CEDA members are able to access a number of case studies and some recent CEDA papers which outline some good examples of beneficial reuse of sediment].

Cronin points out that sediments are often seen as a waste material, but that this view is outdated. “Sediments are a resource and provide an incredibly important ecosystem service,” she explains. “We need to demonstrate how informed sediment management can be used to balance ecosystems and mitigate climate change. Having direct access to the environmental policy development that steers this, is one of the reasons I’m involved in the MSFD NAVI work.”

Social benefit

Cronin, who has a PhD from University College Cork (Ireland), is a strong believer in the integration of disciplines to enable sustainable use of space and resources. “Io get the optimal result that covers all aspects, whether business, technical or environmental, you need an integrated approach that has a diverse team covering a wide range of topics,” she says, adding, “the goal is always to optimise the use of resources. We need a holistic view where we accept that there is a cost to every action and so you need to offset this against the benefits that we can give back to the system.”

This attitude is one that she carried into the first European Commission MSFD meeting she attended in June 2020, which was held online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “It was very interesting to see how legislation is developed and put into practise - to see scientific democracy in action,” she said, adding that she learned a lot from observing how various countries worked together to find a way to implement the policies being discussed. “It’s really quite an effort. Synthesising all the scientific investigations on various impacts to determine indicators for environment policy agreed upon at a European level. It is fascinating to see that the EU and national governments working to determine practical environmental indicators, whether it is beach litter, the impact of sea floor modifications or underwater noise, all of which are a focus of the MSFD NAVI group.”

Collaborative attitude

Cronin’s eagerness to mitigate environmental impacts, while recognising the need for use of the marine space, is likely to serve her well as the MSFD NAVI Chair, as the role requires her to collaborate not only with various other maritime industry players but also regulators. “I was chairing the MSFD NAVI meeting on the 27th of November and it was great sitting with stakeholders such as the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA), European Seaports Organisation (ESPO), European Boating Industry (EBI), amongst others,” she said at time of press. “It was very valuable to connect with the various stakeholders and have them all in the same [virtual] room to discuss which aspects of the MSFD overlap with their sectors’ use of the maritime space, and to see how we can work together to communicate expert advice, technical suggestions or concerns, to the European Commission regarding the use of threshold values in practice.”

Through the course of her career, the Deltares’ employee has found that good communication of scientific results is key to getting stakeholders on board and to reaching consensus on technically challenging issues and outcomes. “I love working on the technical aspects of a project, but I also really enjoy communication with clients and stakeholders to discover the optimum solution for a certain problem. Connecting problem owners with problem solvers and facilitating conversations is my passion – and I view meetings such as those I participate in for MSFD NAVI as an opportunity to do that,” she says. Once the pandemic is over, Cronin is keen to reap the benefits that face-to-face meetings will bring, both at the European Commission level and during the NAVI meetings, particularly when it comes to knowledge sharing.

Editor’s note: This interview took place prior to the MSFD NAVI meeting, but CEDA members can read updates from the meeting by signing in and clicking on the following link: https://www.dredging.org/marine-strategy-framework-directive-internal-documents/117