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Marine interests in Jamaica set to benefit from updated hydrographic information

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Attendees at the UKHO workshop in Kingston

Jamaica has begun upon updating hydrographic charts in key maritime developmental areas to improve coastal navigation, marine infrastructure works and other maritime activities, with assistance from the UK Government.

United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has conducted hydrographic surveys of Kingston Harbour and its Approaches and Portland Bight as part of the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office initiative – the Commonwealth Marine Economics Programme (CMEP).

Welcoming the data, MAJ Director General, Rear Admiral (Ret’d) Peter Brady, who is also chair of Jamaica’s National Hydrographic Committee – a sub-committee of the National Council on Ocean and Coastal Zone Management of Jamaica – said: “Shipping around Jamaica has increased over the years and the surveys of our nautical charts are very old. Ships have gotten bigger, their drafts have gotten deeper and, in order to ensure that Jamaica has safe waters, we need to know what the current depths and configurations of the seabed are, around the coast of Jamaica and not just at the major ports and channels.  This latest survey conducted, will bring navigation charts up to date utilising the most modern surveying methods.

“This information will give navigators of ships more confidence in coming in to Jamaican waters.”

As well as complying with the Jamaican government’s obligations under chapter five of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, which is enshrined in the Jamaica Shipping Act, updated charts will provide many other benefits including ensuring there are no undocumented wrecks or other materials on Jamaica’s seabed, thus reducing the risk of ship wrecks or even damage to hulls which can cause oil spills. Updated charts will also provide for effective emergency and disaster response planning, development of shoreline management plans, and will benefit local fishermen who will be able to accurately identify the active locations of fish populations.

Last week (November 12, 2018) the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) conducted a workshop in Kingston to officially hand-over the data from the hydrographic surveys, prior to its transposing to nautical charts which will be done in the UK shortly. The National Lands Agency in Jamaica will be the repository of this hydrographic data. The UKHO has also left equipment with Jamaica so the country can undertake its own hydrographic surveys in the future. The National Land Agency of Jamaica will be providing the surveyors.

Admiral Brady said: “This is important for people who want to navigate Jamaican waters or invest in maritime operations and infrastructure here, particularly in oil and gas or in maritime works, because the updated, more reliable charts will show not only depths and configuration but also what is actually on the seabed at this time.”

Ian Davies, UKHO Hydrographic Programme Manager and Chris Thorne, UKHO, Head of Partnering and Engagement – Eastern Atlantic and Caribbean, delivered the workshop.

Mr Thorne said: “Hopefully the future is very bright for Jamaica. Their marine economic value will improve. There will be greater reliability in the data on the charts. The cruise industry will have more confidence in visiting Jamaica and to utilise more and more of the ports and harbours that are of significant value to the cruise industry. All the relevant Jamaican agencies should be able to utilise this data.”

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