(CNS): Representatives of the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) are currently in the Cayman Islands delivering to the Lands and Survey Department the results of a seabed mapping programme that was undertaken last summer. The new map is expected to improve navigation safety in local waters and ensure the territory is fulfilling its international maritime safety obligations under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, as well as bring the islands sea charts up to date, officials said in a government press release.
Chris Thorne, Head of Partnering and Engagement at the UKHO for the Caribbean region, said the new survey was needed as the current charts are old and do not meet modern navigation standards.
“The new surveys using modern equipment ensures that we fully capture all of the features on the seabed and identify any dangers, as well as allowing other scientists to carry out research based on the information and to allow governments to use this data for planning for the future,” he added.
The project is part of a wider programme to improve maritime charts across the British Overseas Territories. It was facilitated by the Governor’s Office and funded through the UK’s Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).
The project is based on the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) capacity-building model, which has three phases. The first is to collect and circulate nautical information to mariners via the Maritime Safety Information System; phase 2 is the identification of priority survey areas followed by the survey; the third phase is the publication of new charts, which was undertaken by UKHO.
In 2017 that office surveyed the waters to the west and south of Grand Cayman and also the south-western tip of Cayman Brac, which was the data released this week at a specially convened workshop.
The experts explained that the bulk of the work is done using vessel-based multi-beam surveys covering areas of importance for navigation; or in others airborne LIDAR bathymetry and remote sensing satellite-derived bathymetry. The areas for survey are developed through a prioritisation programme based on the age of the current charts and shipping density as well as with meetings with local stakeholders.
Understanding local ocean beds is instrumental in territories realising their economic potential within their marine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and sustainable manage marine resources, officials said. The data taken from this type of survey has many applications and can be used at every level – from the government and port authorities, to container ship captains and local skippers. The resulting charts have been produced in digital and print format for mariners who transit Cayman waters or call at its port and berths.
Officials said the survey will help the Cayman Islands to realise its economic potential and unlock the benefits of the blue economy — something that so far the current environment minister has never spoken about. All of the findings of this survey will be provided to the government to help inform their decisions for maritime policy.
Category: Science & Nature