Improving the region’s hydrographic services

Hydrographic training in Fiji.

Tuesday 17 June 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji. Safety of life at sea very much depends on high standards of maritime navigation. Hydrographic service units in Pacific Island countries and territories play a critical part in gathering and disseminating the information required for safe navigation. However, these highly specialised services are costly and there is a lack of technical capacity at national level to undertake surveys and update nautical charts.

At the Pacific Regional Transport Ministers meeting in April this year, ministers encouraged members to consider setting up a national hydrographic coordination committee and to support the formation of a hydrographic service unit at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). The ministers tasked SPC with developing a regional approach to the delivery of hydrographic services.

As part of its assistance for its Pacific Island members, SPC’s Transport Programme, in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) under its Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP) and with support from the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), has convened a two-week regional training course, ‘Introduction to hydrography and hydrographic governance.’

The workshop is important for participating countries as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) require coastal states to ensure hydrographic surveys are carried out and appropriate nautical charts are updated and made available. There are also significant consequences for Contracting States that do not meet their responsibilities under UNCLOS and SOLAS.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, SPC’s Deputy Director-General, Mrs Fekita Utoikamanu, said: ‘We realise the immense amount of work required in the Pacific region to meet member states’ international obligations to fulfil hydrographic requirements and reduce maritime risk factors.’

‘There are widespread deficiencies in hydrographic surveys and charting in the region – many areas are unsurveyed, or rely on old surveys, and coverage is incomplete. This situation needs addressing and should be a national priority. New hydrographic survey information will also be necessary for the shift from paper charts to electronic ones.’

Adam Greenland, National Hydrographer at Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), said: ‘Hydrography is critical for all coastal states. Without the key infrastructure of accurate and adequate nautical charts, the risk of an incident increases – lives may be lost, property damaged, the environment affected and the full economic potential of Pacific Island countries may not be reached.’

Maritime policy advisors and administrators, sector managers, administrators and operators from around the region are attending the training, which is designed to assist Pacific Island countries and territories build their capacity in hydrographic surveying and nautical chart production. In turn, national maritime authorities will be better able to provide the services needed to fulfil basic requirements for navigation and safety, as required by SOLAS.

The training is being held from 16 to 27 June at SPC’s Suva regional office.


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