AHO forging ahead with navigation aids based on high density bathymetry

By on 12 June, 2018

Electronic navigation charts based on high density bathymetric survey data has been shown to greatly assist decision making around harbour management. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) has trialed and published high-density bathymetric electronic navigation charts for two Australian ports, with plans to develop more after discovering the massive benefits to port operations that they have conferred.

The seed was planted in 2015, when a cruise ship operator was trying to set safety margins for its gigantic 260-metre vessels to enter the port of Cairns, via a 90-metre-wide channel. Ship simulator Smartship Australia prototyped a high-density bathymetric electronic navigation chart (bENC) from survey data supplied by the port authority, which included one-metre depth contour intervals and 50-metre spaced soundings.

The higher resolution survey data ultimately resulted in a direct commercial benefit to Cairns.

The enhanced detail revealed a much broader navigable channel than that which could be deduced from studying the standard bENC, despite the same safety depth of eight metres. Based on the new high-density ENC, access to that class of ship was granted to the harbour, which had previously been refused on safety grounds in 2010 as a lower-resolution bathymetric survey had suggested that an adequate safety margin could not be maintained.

The AHO built a proof-of-concept project around the Cairns case, publishing two bENCs for Cairns in 2017, covering the port’s outer and inner harbours. These were developed to meet local port authority needs and based on the availability of high density survey data at a 1:2500 compilation scale.

The AHO now plans to replace existing bENCs at navigation purpose five with updates ones fitting navigation purpose six, that can be updated as new survey data becomes available.

The new bENCs have been carefully composed to be of maximum utility to marine pilots, harbour masters and ship crews, and will be available to ship crews via ECDIS (electronic chart display and information system ) and to marine pilots’ PPUs (portable pilot units).

Read further on the AHO’s experience developing bENCs at Hydro International.

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