The UK Government Are Funding A Four Year Seabed Mapping Programme In Turks And Caicos

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The UK Hydrographic Office is undertaking a 4-year UK Government funded seabed mapping programme, which is helping to improve the safety of navigation in the waters of the Overseas Territories and ensure that they are fulfilling their international maritime safety obligations under the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention.

In January 2018, the UK Hydrographic Office undertook a technical visit to assess the current situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The visit looked at the legislation currently in place and what support can be provided to the TCI through the seabed mapping programme to ensure that international obligations are met as well as identifying potential areas for surveying and future capacity building through training and technical support. In July 2018, UK Hydrographic Office will undertake a survey of the waters around the Turks and Caicos Islands using a specially adapted aircraft.

These surveys are being conducted as a result of the data on the current charts being outdated and does not meet modern standards for safety of navigation. Undertaking new surveys with modern equipment ensures we capture the features on the seabed and identify dangers. The data from this survey will also enable scientists to carry out research based on the information, and enable government departments to use this data for planning for the future.

The survey will take place daily for approximately 7 weeks from late July and will consist of a small aircraft flying twice daily for up to 4 hours at a time over the Caicos Bank and Grand Turk areas. The aircraft will be flying at a height of around 300 meters and will be operating survey equipment to capture the depth of water, height of land as well as high resolution images of both the land and sea.

A good understanding of the ocean is fundamental in efforts to help island territories realize their economic potential within their marine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and manage their marine resources sustainably. The data taken from this type of survey has many applications and can be used at every level – from the government departments, agencies and port authorities, to cargo ship captains and local skippers. Fundamentally, this exercise is grounded in helping the Turks and Caicos to realize its economic potential and unlock the benefits of the blue economy.

Aside from economic benefits, the navigational benefits for captains of any sized vessel are clear – a greater understanding of the ocean surrounding the islands will directly support safer navigation. What’s more, as Primary Charting Authority for the islands, the UK Hydrographic Office has a commitment to helping ensure the territory is fulfilling its mandatory international maritime obligations under IMO’s Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention.

Data collected during surveys is used to produce updated navigational charts, in digital and print format, for mariners who transit the territory’s waters or call at its port and berths. Finally, all of the findings of the survey will be provided to the government to help inform their decisions for maritime policy in the Overseas Territory.

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