His Coordinates

“We have kept pace with the emergent technology”

Mar 2011 | No Comment

Says Vice Admiral B R Rao AVSM, NM, VSM, Chief Hydrographer to the Government of India

Would you like to highlight some of the initiatives taken by NHO in last five years?

The Indian Naval Hydrographic Department, with its rich traditions in the field of hydrography, wide ranging experience, a good infrastructure coupled with an excellent Human Resource, has the entire requisite wherewithal to be ranked amongst the best in the world. This has not happened overnight; the initial foundations have been laid by our predecessors and we who man and run the department now have been blessed by a good beginning. In the last five years, we have only added on to its already established stature.

Today with the world moving into the digital era, we have in right earnest made a good beginning to produce Electronic Navigation Charts (ENCs) for the entire Indian waters for its use in the type approved Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). The soon to be commissioned Hydrographic Production Database (HPD) will result in all data in a seamless database, providing for simultaneous data processing and work flow by multiple-users as also bring in the improved efficiency in maintaining source data and the production .of multiple marine products, including the ENCs and Paper Charts from a single database. This arrangement will also provide for Print on Demand facility whereby any chart can be printed with up to date data incorporated, from any remote location connected to this database through the latest digital communication setup.

Our ships and survey units have been provided with the state-of-art technology available in the field of hydrography. These have been constantly replaced by the current technology as and when they are rendered obsolete. Consequently the throughputs from our ships and units have improved substantially.

The National Institute of Hydrography, Goa, an important resource centre of the Department, has been provided the required fillip to further augment the training infrastructure keeping in tune with its international stature of being a Regional Training Centre for Hydrography for this part of the globe. With its excellent Training Infrastructure and an experienced and dedicated staff, the Institute has attracted many international students from lOR and beyond. IHO, through its capacity building programmes as well as IOC of UNESCO, have been regularly subscribing for the various programmes that we conduct. We have also conducted many tailor made courses not only for our national agencies but also for international bodies. All our programmes are over subscribed and this alone speaks of the quality of training that’s imparted at our Institute.

Considering the stature of the Indian Naval Hydrographic Department it was only apt that we play a leading role in this region in so far as hydrography is concerned. INHD’s inherent strengths, place it in a unique position to offer hydrographic assistance to developing maritime nations of the Indian Ocean Littoral region, wherein hydrography is still in nascent state. Our Government has evinced a keen interest in the affairs of the Department and have entrusted us with the responsibility to promote hydrography in this region. We have been providing assistance in hydrography to most of our friendly neighbours through an MOU in tune with the policies of our Government. We have reached far and wide and our contributions have been much appreciated by the countries concerned as also acknowledged by the IHO. Cooperation in hydrography is increasingly seen as an important instrument of foreign diplomacy. Our men have been excellent ambassadors of our country through these processes.

Soon our survey fleet will have an addition of six catamaran hull medium size survey vessels with the state-of-art technology. This was warranted considering the extra workload owing to the increase in trade and opening of new ports as also because of the growing requirement of defence surveys of our Navy. These vessels are in advanced stages of construction and soon will join our survey fleet. Our proposal for a survey training ship has been recently cleared and accepted by the Government. The required administrative formalities will be undertaken for its construction in a phased manner.

Considering the increasing requirements of survey of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Command, we have setup a Hydrographic Survey Unit which will look after some pressing requirements of Port Blair harbour and neighbouring islands.

What kind of surveys NHO generally undertakes?

NHO generally undertakes following types of surveys:

(a) Navigational Survey

(b) Oceanographic Survey

(c) Defence Related Survey

(d) Surveys as required for Maritime Boundary Delineation

(e) Pipeline &Cable Routing Surveys

(f) Offshore Development Surveys

(g) Surveys for Continental Shelf

(h) Surveys for Coastal Zone Management (CZM)

How have technologies like GPS and GIS, impacted the activities of National Hydrographic Office in last few years?

GPS technology has been used by the Indian Naval Hydrographic Department for more than 20 years. We have kept pace with the emergent technology in this field. Our ships use Differential GPS (DGPS) for positioning the vessel, whilst undertaking hydrographic surveys. Increasingly, the traditional methods of extension of control over land have changed to the satellite derived methods and we have the state-of-art geodetic GPS equipment and system/software in our inventory. We have now moved over from DGPS to DGPS RTK. These techniques are used in our ships today to derive the best from the improved 3D position accuracy they provide. We are experimenting with the varied options that provides RTK tides and soon we will have SOPs in place to make this a common approach for survey. We have also made a beginning moving over to the Satellite-based Augmentation System (SBAS) of differential GPS (DGPS). We are eagerly waiting for our own SBAS in GAGAN. Marine charts including ENCs have moved over to WGS 84 Datum world over. This automatically pre-empts the use of GPS. The GPS, in all its avatars, find increasing use for hydrographic applications.

The digital charts in its official standardised form come as ENCs for use in ECDIS.

The standards of ENCs have been recently fine tuned to be accepted with GIS technology. The ENCs have the potential to form the backbone of a marine GIS. GIS is as important to the Hydrographer as it is to any mapping agency. However, many aspects and its true potential are yet to be fully tapped. Our hydrographic office is soon to have a new Hydrographic Production Database. The GIS used is CARIS based which is a typical
GIS for marine application. Like I mentioned before, this will result in availability of all data in a seamless database, providing for simultaneous data processing and workflow by multiple-users as also bring in the improved efficiency in maintaining source data and the expeditious production of multiple marine products, including the ENCs and Paper Charts from a single database. This arrangement will also provide for Print-on-Demand facility. It will bring in greater efficiency in our work flow and will certainly improve our productivity as well as accuracy.

What role do you see for the technologies like GPS in the areas of Maritime Safety?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has entered every sphere of our life. It has deep impact on any marine operations or applications. Today GPS is available right from a small country craft engaging in fishing to the most sophisticated vessels that ply the oceans. This is one technology that has pierced every segment of the socio economic fabric to become one of the necessities especially so in the marine world. It is important for mariner to know the vessel’s position in open sea as well as in congested harbours and waterways and today I can safely say that about 99% of these mariners rely on GPS. This has proven to be most relied method for mariners to navigate, measure speed, and determine location. This has increased the levels of safety and efficiency of mariner many folds.

Capacity building is one aspect which is becoming a key issue given the pace of technology changes. What is NHO’s strategy in this regard?

All the major survey equipment/instruments have been standardised in the department based on ease of operation, reliability, accuracy, ruggedness, IHO S-44 compliance and availability of authorised local service centers in India. It has been our endeavor to upgrade the survey equipment to the latest technology in market when due for replacement by means of a long term procurement plan. We make every effort to make available the latest technology for ensuring stringent data quality and also for improved productivity. National Institute of Hydrography, our premier training organisation, is constantly provided with the latest technology for training and the best professionals man this training set up to ensure the throughputs are of desired quality. We have a well calibrated three tier system for training for both officers and sailors. Besides we do organise workshops and adhoc training capsules as and when we induct new technology where in OEM Engineers are also called to deliver lectures. During these interactions, our trainers are well exposed to further train others. These adhoc training capsules are also conducted with OEM’s involvement on all occasions when any fresh batch of equipment/ system is commissioned. Further, regular seminars are also conducted so that good exchange of ideas and views take place for the betterment of all. We also take the opportunity to participate in seminars and conferences conducted elsewhere to derive the most from it. Continuity training on board ships is another aspect by which our men are constantly updated on current technology. We believe learning is a continuous process and our Human Resource is given a conducive environment and ample opportunity for self advancement. All this has helped the department to keep pace with technology

Does NHO offer its services to other countries also?

We have been quite active in pursuing hydrographic cooperation in the lOR. We already have an MOU with Mauritius where-in we are providing hydrographic assistance. We are undertaking surveys of their important ports and water-ways once a year and producing nautical charts of the areas surveyed. We are providing training to their personnel at NIH, Goa as also provide on job training when our ships survey their waters. We are also providing technical assistance in setting up of hydrographic infrastructure. This MOU was initially for a period for 5 years which has recently been extended by another 5 years. We are also providing similar kind of assistance to Seychelles and Maldives. Sri Lanka too benefits a lot from INHD and the assistance we provide from time to time. Of late Myanmar, Muzambique and Saudi Arabia have expressed their desire for our assistance in the field of hydrography. South Africa and the South Africa Islands Hydrographic Commission have evinced keen interest in availing our training facilities. This is likely to move into a bigger hydrographic cooperation with these regions and talks are on anvil. The Department is also actively involved in Co-operative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore wherein India has committed and provided funds, training and technical expertise for two projects. You can see the current engagement and reach of the department in so far as pursuing hydrographic cooperation in lOR and around. Besides all this, our Training facilities are much sought after in lOR and beyond and all our training programme at NIH, Goa are generally oversubscribed giving a good indication of the excellent quality of training we provide.

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