HAPPY 2020 WHD CELEBRATIONS
FROM THE HYDOGRAPHER'S DESK
HYDROGRAPHY & TECHNOLOGY - A VERITABLE PARTNERSHIP TOWARDS THE SUSTENANCE OF THE WORLD OCEANS
By Rear Admiral CE Okafor - Hydrographer of the Nigerian Navy & President Nigerian Hydrographic Society.
Today 21st of June marks the celebration of the annual "World Hydrography Day (WHD)"; a day set aside by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) for the world’s hydrographic community to highlight the importance of hydrography(Learn More about hydrography here) and why it is still relevant to humanity. If you look around you, almost everything you see; whether products or raw materials, is likely to have arrived the shores of Nigeria by ship. Ships, as we know, will be unable to safely sail from one place to another without accurate and up-to-date hydrographic information. Therefore, it is safe to say that hydrography is a force multiplier to human survival and sustainability.
As the world grapples with Covid-19 pandemic, and tries to curb its spread through physical distancing, the need for use of newer technology in the field of hydrography arises now more than ever, in order to achieve maximum results, while at the same time reducing the risk of transmission between persons. This is why the theme for this year's WHD celebration, which is; "Hydrography - enabling autonomous technologies" could not have been more apt. From the era of depth acquisition using lead and lines, to more recent technology of multibeam echosounders, the evolution and advancement in the science of hydrography have been rapid and decisive.
In today’s hydrographic practice, attention is increasingly shifting to the use of autonomous technologies such as Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASV), Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) and flying drones to acquire high accuracy, high-resolution marine geospatial information to meet evolving hydrographic applications. From the use of hydrography, primarily as a tool to ensure safety of navigation for marine transport; the increasing need for sustainable use of the ocean for economic growth has further expanded hydrographic applications to offshore wind farming, coastal zone management, as well as, offshore exploration and exploitation of mineral resources. Accordingly, most developed Hydrographic Offices are developing autonomous hydrographic capabilities of national and global Blue Economy programmes, with the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Coast Survey (OCS), the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) and French Hydrographic Office (SHOM), leading the charge. In the light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, NOAA’s OCS is deploying unmanned survey launches and survey vessels to work in the most treacherous weather and ocean conditions, with their survey crew members operating remotely.
In recent times, the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Office (NNHO) has ramped up its hydrographic capabilities with several first-of-its-kind products to support Nigeria’s Blue Economy project. As you are aware, during the last WHD Celebration, the NNHO published the first indigenous navigational chart ever produced by Nigeria; NG 2501 (Lagos Harbour Chart) with much fanfare. This feat completed Nigeria’s hydrographic capacity development as required by the IHO. As at today, the Office has published the second edition of the chart, incorporating recent navigational significant changes that have taken place within the channel. The Office has also published the second indigenous navigational chart, NG 4401 (Ogunkobo to Tin Can Island) at a time when it was most needed, primarily because the water within the area had hitherto never been charted and had recently witnessed several marine accidents. This achievement drew several commendations from top military echelons, as well as the Federal Government and mariners who expressed delight to the usefulness of the chart to their vouyages. Early this month, the NNHO and indeed Nigeria, recorded another mile stone in hydrographic capabilities, with the acceptance and publication of Nigeria’s first Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC), NG525010, by the International Center for ENC (IC-ENC). The electronic version of Nigeria’s Second indigenous navigational chart; NG 4401 is set to be released soon.
These achievements have not and will not make us complacent in any way but have rather increased the desire of the NNHO to improve capacity and capability consistently in support of Nigeria’s maritime sector and Blue Economy Programme. As the Nigeria Navy is ready to induct a state-of-the art offshore survey vessel, with autonomous capabilities in the next few months, the NNHO is fully poised to provide up-to-date marine geo-spatial information of Nigerian waters to diverse maritime operators, for enhanced economic growth of our dear Nation. To this end, the NNHO has increased collaborations with developed Hydrographic Offices, like NOAA, UKHO and SHOM, in order to tap from their experiences toward churning out new nautical products and solutions in the most internationally acceptable format. Accordingly, the NNHO will soon release to the public, a suite of new generation navigational services such as High Density (HD) charts and high-resolution bathymetry products among others.
As the national charting authority in Nigeria, the NNHO is also collaborating with the hydrographic industry’s best under the umbrella of the Nigerian Hydrographic Society (NHS. This is for the purpose of improving the standard of hydrographic practice, methods and technologies among private hydrographic practitioners so that Nigeria can draw maximum benefits from the Crowd Sourced Bathymetric initiative of the IHO. This would go a long way to facilitate quicker survey and chart coverage of Nigerian waters, and ultimately place Nigeria on the right stead towards actualizing the Nippon Foundation/GEBCO seabed 2030 project.
Indeed, these are exciting times in the field of hydrography in Nigeria. While mankind grapples with global pandemics and the attendant uncertainties that come along with it, a new generation of hydrographers are being born; ones who are developing requisite skills and abilities, as well as harnessing more modern technologies to tackle and surmount challenges that hitherto exist. The need for autonomous technology in hydrographic applications to achieve and ensure these processes is being brought to the forefront, and we as a nation, and indeed all hydrographic community must come onboard to ensure the sustenance, protection and preservation of our oceans ecosystems and the blue economy as a whole.
On this note, I congratulate all my hydrographic colleagues as we celebrate the 2020 WHD. Onward Together.