Oceanography has become one of the most important applied sciences in the modern era. It is primarily concerned with the study of the seas and oceans, which occupy most of the area (71%) of the planet we live in. Such a high percentage of the Earth's surface cannot be ignored. It should be studied so that its secrets may be uncovered and its resources exploited by using optimum scientific methods.
The globe is now facing many food problems because food production, especially protein, is no longer sufficient to meet the immediate needs of the ever-growing numbers of people around the world. A large proportion of people, especially in developing countries, are suffering from diseases caused by the lack of protein in their diet, and perhaps the only alternative is to exploit the seas as a source of constant protein diet. Certainly, the amount of food that the world needs can be made available through scientific research that aims to uncover new fishing areas, and also by developing fisheries technology.
The map of the world shows vast areas of the continents occupied by barren deserts, since the distribution of the natural resources of water in the world is not well balanced. Vast regions are therefore exposed to drought. In order to allow people to live on a proper level, there must be the search for new sources of water to meet the requirements of agricultural growth and urbanization. The seas are considered a constant source of fresh water. They comprise 97% of the Earth's water, and so salt water should be turned into fresh water so that advantageous use can be made of it on a wider scale.
The sources of mineral resources on land have begun to run out as a result of the huge exploitation required to meet the increasing demands of the world's population, which has doubled over the years. On the other hand, the mineral deposits in the sea have remained in more or less fixed quantities. Viewing it therefore as a large mine of most metals and chemical elements, the sea is being exploited as a compensatory factor. This is necessary in order to face the rapid development in technology, industry and cultural needs. Moreover, the sources of energy worldwide have started to diminish, and alternatives are being sought. One option is the exploitation of the sea waves, tides, and the differences in the water temperatures between the surface and the depths of the oceans. In short, the sea is currently the most important source of food, minerals, fresh water and energy in the face of overpopulation. For this reason, the attention of the developed world is focused on the study of the seas and oceans, and, through prestigious universities that teach marine science in their various majors, they generously fund research programs that aim to explore and exploit organic and non-organic resources
In this sense, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always sought to keep pace with global developments in science and technology, understanding as it does the need for optimum economic exploitation of marine natural resources in patches of water, and along the shores of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.
King Abdul-Aziz University considered these issues, and established in 1395 AH a section of Oceanography related to the Faculty of Science. The course study was initially limited to marine biology as a major at the undergraduate level. But the study of marine science cannot be restricted to one major: Oceanography majors complete one another. Therefore, a decision by the Supreme Council of the University (No. 2, dated 06/07/1398 AH) was issued to establish the Institute of Marine Sciences with four specialized sections related to Oceanography: Vital, Physical, Chemical, and Geological Oceanography. The Institute was assigned the roles of teaching and scientific research. Later, the Institute became the Faculty of Marine Sciences by a decision of the Supreme Council of the University dated 18/04/1401 AH (22/02/1981 A.D.).
In addition to the aforementioned majors, the shipping industry has evolved, and the majors have become intertwined, so that marine science and the shipping industry are linked with each other. The result was that the faculty has established the Marine Studies Department, which comprises three divisions: the Division of Navigation and Marine Area; the Division of Marine Engineering; and the Division of Sea Ports and Marine Shipping. The important majors of marine sciences and marine shipping are thus seen to complement each other. The approval for this step by the University’s Supreme Council was given in its third meeting held on 12/28/1411A H (10/07/1991 A.D.), in its decision No. 8, and was referred to in a Note (No. 5724/200 dated 13/01/1412 AH) by the Secretary-General of the University’s Council.