World Hydrographic Day

Jun 2007 | Comments Off on World Hydrographic Day

HYDROGRAPHY is that branch of applied sciences that deals with the measurement and description of the features of the seas and coastal areas for all marine purposes and activities, including the protection of the Marine Environment.

World Hydrographic Day is being celebrated on the 21st June every year to commemorate the establishment of the International Hydrographic Bureau by 19 member states in 1921 at the Principality of Monaco at the invitation of HSH Prince Albert I, a noted marine scientist and oceanographer, who had graciously offered the requisite space and facilities free of cost. In 1970, it was renamed as the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) and has presently 80 Member States, covering the vast majority of Ocean States. IHO plays a very useful role in Standardisation, International Charts, Capacity Building and Technical Cooperation, Education and Training, Hydrographic Surveying, Charts (paper and digital), Regional Hydrographic Commissions, Cooperation with other International Organisations, Tsunami Information, and nautical Publications.

From the Cartographic Perspectives, Hydrographic Surveying and Charting is essential for the safety of navigation under the UN/IMO/IHO conventions. On 29th June 2005, the UN adopted a resolution by which 21st June each year is to be celebrated as the World Hydrographic Day. The UN has also urged all states to work with IHO to promote safety of International Navigation, Maritime Development and Protection of vulnerable Marine Areas.

India has a long association with the IHO and is represented at the IHO by the Chief Hydrographer to the Government of India. The Indian National Hydrographic Dept (INHD) with Headquarters at Dehradun is a leading National Hydrographic Office. The Dept celebrated the twin occasion of 300 years of Hydrography in Indian waters and the Golden Jubilee of the National Hydrographic Office, Dehradun, on 1st June 2004 with the President of India as the Chief Guest.

Why is Hydrography important for a Maritime Nation like India? A modernized efficient hydrographic service has crucial role to play in the safe and efficient operation of maritime traffic control, coastal zone management, sustainable exploration and exploitation of marine resources, marine environmental protection and maritime defence. The directions to the contracting governments is amply set out in chapter V regulation 9 of the Safety Of Life At Sea(SOLAS) under the IMO which mandates the collection,compilation and dissemination of all nautical information for the safety of navigation and ensure that hydrographic surveys are carried out adequate to the requirements of safety. It also mandates the preparation and issue of nautical charts and publications worldwide, manage the data/information and achieve greatest possible uniformity and standards in the provision of Hydrographic Services. Article 21 of the UNGA Resolution A/53/32 invites all States to cooperate in carrying out adequate hydrographic surveys and providing nautical information worldwide.

With over 90% of Indian trade moving through the national sea lanes, any laxity in this national service can spell maritime disasters. Coastal zone management is heavily dependant on Hydrographic Parameters and Data for orderly development of the coastal belt. Natural resources in the form of oil, gas, minerals, fish and energy, need accurate hydrographic data for scientific assessment and exploration. Hydrographic data of waves, tides and currents have intrinsic role in maritime natural calamities like cyclones, tsunami, etc. Protection of the marine environment under the UNEP/IMP/IHO conventions is greatly facilitated through large scale information of hydrographic data, especially since underwater topography and geomorphology are major controlling parameters in ocean dynamics.

Accurate and reliable hydrographic data/information has application in various sectors of development of a maritime nation. These include maritime transport, defence, maritime boundaries delimitation, coastal tourism, recreational sailing, offshore industries, fisheries, marine parks, marine environmental protection, real estate, inland water transport, oceanography, continental shelf claims under article 76 of the UNCLOS, ports and harbours, coastal industrial projects and maritime boundaries. These activities impinge upon at least 17 ministries, departments and agencies in the government of India.

It is estimated by the IHO that the benefit of a well established and efficient national hydrographic service in both economic and commercial terms through national programmes, can result in a cost benefit ratio of 1:10.

The INHD has in recent years established itself in the International World Hydrographic Order with one of the major surveying fleet (8 + 6 under construction) with state of the art equipment and systems, a well modernized national hydrographic office at Dehradun, an internationally acclaimed training school at Goa and a small cadre of welltrained and motivated hydrographic and marine cartographic staff. India is one of the few nations to have 229 electronic navigational charts (ENCs) to cover the entire national jurisdiction waters in a seamless database to serve the maritime interests. An Indian software firm has not only enabled this remarkable transformation, but is also assisting many other maritime nations to produce the ENCs of their national jurisdiction.

Indian hydrographers have also been surveying the waters of Antarctica as part of the national team every year.

India has been an active member of the IHO in its various committees with full professional contribution, especially in the last 12 years. These include the Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG), Worldwide Electronic Navigational Database (WEND), capacity building, standards of competence for hydrographic surveyors, Antarctic surveys, committee General Bathymetric Charts of the Oceans (GEBCO) and Committee on Promulgation of Navigational Warnings (CPRNW). India has consistently provided hydrographic and marine cartographic training to many personnel from the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The INHD has assisted Littoral nations in natural calamities, (including tsunami), hydrographic surveying for ports and harbours, EEZ/CS surveys, etc. The initiative of the INHD in establishing the North Indian Ocean Hydrographic Commission (NIOHC) in 2001 has further cemented hydrographic cooperation in the region with 7 members, 4 associate members and 3 observers deliberating on common hydrographic issues for regional well being. The INHD personnel with sophisticated equipment even played useful cartographic role in the border areas in 1999-2001 after the Kargil war.

The reputation of the INHD is borne by the election of two of the former Chief Hydrographers (RAdm DC Kapoor and FL Fraser) to the Directing Committee of the IHO between 1972 and 1987. RAdm KR Srinivasan was elected Vice Chairman of the first UN Commission on limits of the continental shelf for 5 years from 1997, Chairman of the WEND committee (2001-03), member of the advisory board on the standards of competence for hydrographic surveyors (1997-2002) and member of the Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) (2002-2004) and Chairman of the NIOHC (2001-04), all of the IHO between 1995 and 2004. The INHD also won the “First Laureate Award” with a citation and cash award for protection of the marine environment from the World Underwater Federation in 2001 in recognition of its exemplary role.

In an increasing maritime role for India with foreign policy initiatives, the INHD under World Hydrographic Cooperation, is poised to play greater role for common good in the Indian Ocean Region. India is fully competent to become the regional ENC coordinating center for the Indian Ocean area with its technical and IT Infrastructure. It would be prudent for the Government to continue to invest in the National Hydrographic Service to meet multifarious ocean development needs. On the WHD, it is equally important that in a fast changing operational and technological scenario, the INHD must shed its old mindset, improve the performance, quality and content of its operational units and provide a cost-effective, reliable and efficient service to vast number of user agencies with less naval mindset and work towards the objectives of the IHO and national development, especially in the light of the strategic planning and the work programmes of the IHO and the restructuring of the organisation presently underway.

Other National Surveying Organisations in India (both in Public and Private sectors) would do well to adopt the standards of the IHO in their Products and Services in many of their Offshore Activities and thus bring about greater synergy and delivery.


Rear Admiral K.R.Srinivasan

AVSM, IN (Retd) is a Hydrographic and Oceanographic
Expert and was the Chief Hydrographer to the
Government of India from August 1994 to June 2004.
My coordinates
His Coordinates
Steve Berglund
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May 09 TO DECEMBER 2009

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