Monday, September 3, 2018

Vessels from Container Ships to Yachts Can Benefit from New Hydrographic Cooperation

River Thames Navigation Information Will Now be Available via ECDIS
Shipping News Feature
UK – As the River Thames gets busier, returning to past commercial glories as more water borne traffic enters and leaves the waterway, with developments such as the new deep water container port of London Gateway, plus the growth in barge traffic in the London area to serve the needs of various construction projects, so the importance of the work done by the Port of London's (PLA) hydrographic team, the busiest in the UK, grows in importance.

The contours of the river are constantly changing and the PLA team continually collects data on Electronic Navigation Charts (ENCs) which contain vital, real-time information about changes to some 400 square miles of riverbed, essential information for planning a ship's safe and efficient passage on the Thames. Now a new data sharing arrangement with the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), which plots the seabed nationwide, is set to improve the safety of ships transiting the Thames.

Under the new agreement, the UKHO is making available the super detailed PLA survey data via the Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) that all ships carry. This satnav style technology is used by ships to plan their visit to London safely. Ships call at the Port of London from more than 80 countries around the world, bringing essentials supplies of food, fuel and much more.

The PLA's hydrographic team has a 17-strong staff and three purpose-built boats which together produce more than 300 surveys every year. John Pinder, PLA port hydrographer, said:

"This has been possible thanks to continued investment in the latest technology and having competent surveyors and crew, meaning we meet the stringent demands for safety of navigation surveys. Over the past 10 years we have been out there with lasers and drones, as well as sonar systems, capturing every last detail of the structures on the Thames and getting them onto the highly detailed charts. By the end of the year, the majority of existing vessels will be required to carry ECDIS systems and it's great news for us to be providing ENCs direct to the UKHO.”

For their part the team at UKHO were equally enthusiastic about the new cooperation, with port relations manager, Rory Shepherdson, commenting:

"We're extremely proud to have worked with the PLA on this project. As a result of this collaboration, mariners will now be able to access official, large-scale ENC coverage of the Thames, capitalising on the highly accurate and detailed survey data collected by the PLA.

"These ENCs feature one-metre depth contours and increased sounding density, which will help users to navigate through shallow areas of water with greater confidence. This improved detail is hugely important to ships navigating the Thames and will support efficiency of maritime trade in London.

"Working closer with the PLA will also help to improve the speed at which this important information reaches ships, so they have the most up-to-date safety information when visiting the port. Not only is this a major milestone for the PLA and UKHO, but it is also a big step forward in enhancing ENC coverage of UK waters."

Photo: (left to right) UKHO chief executive John Humphrey with PLA chief executive Robin Mortimer and port hydrographer John Pinder