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COVID-19: NHS introduces use of autonomous technology in hydrography

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* Navy moves to improve standard of hydrographic practice in Nigeria

technology in hydrography
L-R: President Nigerian Hydrographic Society and Hydrographer of the Navy, Rear Admiral Emeka Okafor; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas and MD Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman during the commissioning of the first indigenous maritime chart.

By Evelyn Usman

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic with attendant precautionary measures to prevent its spread, the need for use of newer technology in hydrographic application arises more than ever, if the sustenance, protection and preservation of the ocean’s ecosystems and the blue economy as a whole, will be guaranteed.

This is because almost everything, whether products or raw materials, arrive the shores of Nigeria by ship and with the use of hydrography, 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 its applications to offshore wind farming, coastal zone management, as well as offshore exploration and exploitation of mineral resources.

In a move to meet up with this demand, Hydrographer of the Navy and President of the Nigerian Hydrographic Society , NHS, Rear Admiral Chukwuemeka Okafor, in a virtual address to mark 2020 World Hydrographic Day celebration, disclosed that in today’s hydrographic practice, attention was increasingly shifting to the use of autonomous technologies such as Autonomous Surface Vehicles, ASV Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, AUV and flying drones, to capture high accuracy, high-resolution bathymetry data for nearshore and coastal environments.

By the way, hydrography deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans , seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers and the prediction of their change over time, for the primary purpose of safety navigation of ships.

The use of these autonomous technologies according to Okafor, was clearly to prevent the spread of the Corona Virus from person to person.

He said, “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.

“Therefore, we must start looking at optimizing the use of these technologies now and in the coming years so that we can continue to provide marine geospatial solutions to mariners in the most acceptable standard, while staying safe in the midst of the prevailing pandemic”.

Noting that the purpose of the World Hydrographic Day, WHD was primarily to publicize the importance of hydrography and its relevance to humanity, Rear Admiral Okafor, said its theme ‘Hydrography- Enabling Autonomous Technologies’, could not have been more apt, going by the current imperatives of Covid-10 protocols.

Though he stated that the year under review had been a challenging one for the Nigerian Hydrographic Society, but he was quick to add that that the Nigerian Navy, being the society’s greatest partner as well as the National Charting Authority and regulator of hydrographic surveys within Nigerian waters, had produced a number of marine geospatial solutions, ranging from navigational charts to tidal information among others.

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As first step to living up to its expectation, the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Office, NNHO, according to him, ramped up its hydrographic capabilities with several first-of-its-kind products to support Nigeria’s Blue Economy project.

He said, “ Recently, the Navy published the first indigenous Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC), NG 525010, to demonstrate the level of hydrographic development in Nigeria.

“This feat completed Nigeria’s hydrographic capacity development as required by the International Hydrographic Organisation, 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 voyages.

“ 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.

“. 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.

“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”, Rear Admiral Okafor stated.


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