The Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) is the national authority on hydrographic matters and is responsible for delivering hydrographic services to meet the demands of the maritime community in line with national and international standards. The requirement for these services stems from arrangements made by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and coordinated by regional hydrographic commissions and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. They are reflected in Australian domestic law under the Navigation Act 2012. Under agreements between governments, Australia is also the Primary Charting Authority for Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
The AHO plays a crucial role in Australian and regional maritime communities and will continue to deliver high quality hydrographic services to mariners. HydroScheme underpins the delivery of these services to mariners navigating in Australian and regional waters.
Consultation with various maritime authorities and stakeholders is paramount to compiling a nationally focused HydroScheme. For countries where Australia is the Primary Charting Authority the respective national governments and maritime authorities play a crucial role by determining their national priorities.
As requirements change and technologies advance, particularly in regard to electronic and digital navigation services, the AHO will continue to adapt or develop products and services to meet these requirements. In some cases the AHO will withdraw products or services that no longer meet the needs of the maritime community to free resources for new tasks.
The Australian Government has commenced discussions with industry in order to establish a partnership to meet national survey task obligations driving fundamental change to the delivery of Defence hydrographic and oceanographic services and environmental data collection capabilities. As we embrace and prepare for the next generation of hydrographic services, the AHO will continue to evolve with improved capabilities through people, systems and facilities. The future of the AHO and the national hydrographic surveying industry is very bright.
HydroScheme is the national surveying and charting plan and it is important the maritime community actively engages the AHO to shape the future, whether that be for navigation safety, commercial efficiency and productivity, or protection of the marine environment. I invite feedback on HydroScheme content and the nature of any planned surveys and improvements or changes to the products and services of the AHO.
Hydrographer of Australia
AUSTRALIAN CHARTING AREA
The Australian Charting Area (ACA) covers waters where Australia has specific obligations under the International Convention for the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) convention, United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Navigation Act. The ACA also covers areas where Australia provides hydrographic services, including the publication of nautical information and International Series (INT) Charts as agreed by members of the International Hydrographic Organisation. The AHO has supporting arrangements in place to provide hydrographic services to other countries namely, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
DEVELOPMENT AND PRIORITISATION
HydroScheme provides the plan of surveying, charting activities and an outline of hydrographic services provided by the AHO. HydroScheme is reviewed annually to ensure all activities listed, and the priorities allocated, meet current and forecast requirements of the maritime community and align with national strategic objectives.
Australian requirements are determined primarily in consultation with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which provides coordinated input regarding the requirements of the commercial shipping industry and Australian ports. In addition, the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) provides advice on Australia’s international charting responsibility (under International Hydrographic Commission arrangements) for maritime areas off East Antarctica. Input is also provided by Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC) and the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO).
National priorities for Papua New Guinea (PNG) are determined in consultation with the PNG Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), while those of Solomon Islands are determined in consultation with the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration (SIMSA).
The AHO retains national responsibility for surveying, charting and the provision of hydrographic services within Australian waters in accordance with the Navigation Act 2012. To ensure the continued safety of all mariners it is essential that close collaboration, open communication and data sharing is maintained between all stakeholders. Authorities in PNG and Solomon Islands retain national responsibility for Hydrographic services in respective waters, with support from Australia as Primary Charting Authority (PCA).
All requests for surveying and charting activities received by the AHO are reviewed and prioritised using a number of key criteria, including shipping traffic density, emerging port requirements, the bathymetric characteristics of the area, previous survey coverage, the quality of existing charted information and production efficiencies. The survey specific components of HydroScheme are maintained within a database with surveys being added, reprioritised or removed as priorities change or work is completed.
REPORTING AND ACCOUNTABILITY
HydroScheme targets for each financial year (July to June) are set on an annual basis and included in the Department of Defence Portfolio Budget Statements. These targets are reviewed mid-year through the Portfolio Budget Additional Estimates and are revised if necessary. Achievement against these targets is reported through the Defence Annual Report.
Since the 2014-15 financial year onwards, performance against nautical charting production shifted to focus on charting projects. A charting project includes all priority elements involved in producing paper and electronic navigational charts for particular geographic areas. The number of Maritime Safety Updates released, as well as Nautical Publications (NP) produced each year, are also included in routine performance reporting.
Achievement of Survey Days in accordance with HydroScheme is reported as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that is monitored closely by the Hydrographer.