The discussion around maritime charts often lies within the realms of paper versus electronic, but the marine industry has realised that whichever choice is made, the chart and survey data we have is not sufficient for safe operation of a vessel.

In 2013 the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) researched which waters were yet to be surveyed or required better chart data. Research found that more than 95 percent of the South West Pacific region fell into this category, more than 95 per cent of the Polar Regions, more than 80 per cent of the Caribbean and approximately 40 per cent of the USA. At a Professional Yachting Association (PYA) forum at the Monaco Yacht Show, president of the IHO Robert Ward declared, “There are higher resolution maps of the Moon and Mars. Doing nothing is not an option.”

The IHO has reacted and is working with the PYA to source better chart data. Ward and the IHO put the lack of growing data down to a 35 per cent reduction in government fleets, often used to survey waters. In response, the IHO, with the assistance of the PYA, a recent observer organisation of the IHO, has launched its Crowd-Sourced Bathymetry (CSB) programme. The CBS programme aims to ensure a logger is fitted as standard in every professional crewed vessel, whereby the chart data is uploaded to the IHO Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry (DCDB) at the mariners’ convenience. From the DCDB, the IHO will update the normal chart cycle, while the public will have access to the DCDB viewer and data downloader. Observers on board will also be bale to trigger an alert to the IHO, where appropriate.

Concept trials for the CSB programme started in 2014, helped in large part by the PYA’s new observer status. “The PYA only recently became an observer organisation to the IHO and is already providing valuable input to our work,” said Ward. “The PYA represents a significant group of mariners and therefore IHO stakeholders [and] we value their opinions and assistance. In this case, we are getting help from the mariners that quite literally work on the edges of our charts, where we all acknowledge that we need more data.”

The demand for more data is evidently industry-wide, and this new concept from the IHO ties in with the launch of Good Anchorage, another project to improve the quality of maritime navigation data, which will officially launch at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Captain Todd Rapley, superyacht representative for Good Anchorage, told “Trials of attaching a black box to vessels, both commercial and recreational, to collect depth and GPS data is a start. With options to verify different vessels’ tracks, this provides multi-sourced data as good as, if not better than, any government can obtain.”

Captain Rapley pointed to one of the problems of passage data: it is only the data for the well-used ocean highways that is being confirmed. “Think of this way: we have knowledge and log books of where we have been, but what we are looking for is ahead of us and where we are planning to go,” he said. “If we share the knowledge we have, making it accessible to the mariner behind us approaching and the mariner ahead of us does the same, we can now go around the world benefitting from each other’s shared data, knowledge and experiences.”

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