When Manuel Moreu SM ’78, was a child, his father was an officer in the Spanish navy, and Moreu wanted nothing more than to be an officer himself. At age five, however, side effects of antibiotics left him deaf in one ear, which meant that the navy would never take him. “Rather than operate the warships, I [decided to] build them,” he says. Now Moreu runs Seaplace, Spain’s top marine design firm, designing both military and civilian vessels. In a 40-year career, he has not only collaborated in the design of ships for the navies of Spain, Norway, and other countries but has also introduced innovations for massive new oil and gas exploration platforms in the North Sea and Brazil. More recently, the firm has moved into clean energy with new designs for offshore wind.
Moreu came to MIT to study in Course 13, Ocean Engineering (which merged with mechanical engineering in 2005), focusing on finite element analysis. “At MIT I didn’t need any coffee,” he says. “From five in the morning, I got the adrenaline I needed for the whole day. My brain was just constantly working on solutions.” After graduation, he and Jorge Sendagorta, SM ’78, founded Seaplace as a division of a British company; eventually it became a fully owned Spanish company with Moreu as president. It employs 50 naval engineers, generating $2.4 million in sales. During the 1990s, the firm designed sophisticated drill ships and floating production storage and offloading units, which combine production and storage on a vessel.
For Moreu, the thrill of naval engineering is the speed at which it operates. “I always say to new engineers: Do you want to work in aviation, where you spend 10 years improving one piece of landing equipment, or do you want to spend 10 years designing 10 different structures?” he says. A recent project has brought him back to Massachusetts, working with US energy company Avangrid to develop an 800-megawatt offshore wind project 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. In Europe, Seaplace earned preliminary approval for a floating wind turbine technology that could take wind energy farther offshore.
Moreu’s sons both attended MIT for mechanical engineering; Jaime SM ’09, now works with him on the wind projects, while Jose SM ’21, is an engineer in the technology subsidiary HI Iberia. In October, Moreu received the Gran Cruz del Mérito Naval—the Grand Cross of Naval Merit—for service to his country. “You can imagine, since it was my dream since I was a child to be a navy officer, this was very special,” he says. “I was thinking my father was seeing that from heaven, saying, ‘Well done.’”
This article also appears in the May/June 2022 issue of MIT News magazine, published by MIT Technology Review.