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Chart data insufficient, risks casualties, says IHO president

Chart data insufficient, risks casualties, says IHO president
Robert Ward, president of the International Hydrographic Organisation, yesterday used his platform at the International Maritime Organisation’s World Maritime Day symposium to call for every vessel to carry an echosounding logger and make their findings available in a “crowdsourcing” of hydrographic data.

Ward called attention to the lack of hydrographic survey information in shallow waters, warning that a disturbing amount of data is unavailable on charts. Of the “0-200m” areas, 80% of West Africa, 95% of the Southwest Pacific, and 95% of the Polar Regions was “either unsurveyed, or requires new surveys”.


“We have an incredible dependence on Global Navigation Satellite System, and I would say the mariner and chartmaker have incredible overconfidence in the data that is presented on the chart.”


“It is a fact that all survey data collected before the early 80s cannot possibly – as soon as you move away more than 10 miles from the coast – have been positioned better than about 30 to 50mtr. Ships are sailing today where they think they know where they are to five or 10mtr, and this is leading to cutting corners, because they think they can go closer to the rocks than ever.”


The off-route manoeuvring dangerously close to Giglio island caused the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise vessel in 2012, in which 32 people died.


Ward cited a 35% reduction in the fleet of survey ships over the last 25 years. “We have new technology… greater efficiency in multi-beam echosounders, laser systems from aircraft, and the use of contract surveys. But in no way has that made up a 35% deficiency in observing platforms.”

“We… have better maps of the Moon and Mars than we do of most of our seas, oceans and coastal areas.


“It is almost impossible to think, in the 21st Century, that governments would produce sustainable economic development plans on the shore with no maps. But we seem to be doing it at sea, and we seem to have plans to continue. I suggest that is not a good thing.” 

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