By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
The relevance of hydrography is not limited to facilitation of navigational safety, sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, it also provides basic information for expert management of the seas and oceans as well as collection of marine geospatial knowledge for national development all in the interest of mankind.
Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ekwe Ibas stated these Monday at the 15th Eastern Atlantic Hydrographic Commission Conference and Regional Awareness Seminar on Maritime Geospatial Knowledge holding in Lagos.
The theme of the 3-day conference is Regional Awareness on Maritime Geospatial Knowledge.
The Naval Boss advised that recognition must be given to the value of the evolving new technologies in data capturing and the increasing data volume which requires standardized processing and management systems.
He recalled that the marine environment has been of immense importance both as a precursor to global trade as well as a source of livelihood and wealth creation. “Apart from these economic applications, the maritime domain is known to impact on several other aspects of our life such as scientific research, leisure and defense of our security, all of which serve a daily reminder of its significance to us.
Unfortunately, there is a growing concern today for the future of the maritime environment particularly as it relates to its safety, security, pollution containment and the protection of the biodiversity for the purpose of responsible exploration and exploitation of its resources for the benefit of mankind.” He noted that the effective and efficient engagement of hydrographic services in form of nautical charts and Maritime Safety Information (MSI) among others, to facilitate safe and efficient use of the seas, oceans and waterways by operators is basic to any chance of assuaging these concerns.
He expressed optimism that the seminar set against the framework of the theme would serve as a useful platform for the renewal of contacts and consideration of the militating issues together with their underlying prospects of mutual interest among the guests and participants from member and observer-countries of the Eastern Atlantic sub-region.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Hydrographer of the Nigerian Navy, Commodore C. E. Okafor described the conference as unique because this is the first time Nigeria is hosting a regional hydrographic seminar of this magnitude after 27 years since she played host to the first Eastern Atlantic Hydrographic Commission’s biennial Conference. “It is a known fact that the primary purpose of hydrography is to protect human lives at sea by facilitating safe navigation. But far beyond this, hydrography contributes directly to the efficiency of maritime transport by allowing voyages to be shortened. It also supports maritime defense by allowing freedom of maouvres by commanders during maritime as well as search –and-rescue operations. Hydrography provides primary data essential for coastal zone management and development of ports and other coastal infrastructure.”
He called on littoral nations within the subregion to take advantage of the technological advancement in hydrography and the technical assistance offered by the International Hydrographic Organization to fully develop their hydrographic services. “This explains why Nigeria has taken steps to improve hydrographic service delivery in the past few years. These steps have led to the establishment of a maritime safety information facility at the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Office in line with Phase 1 of the International Hydrographic Organization’s Capacity Building Strategy.”
On the provision of nautical charts and publications, Commodore Okafor said, Nigeria has commenced aggressive training of cartographers with a view to producing charts that will meet international standards. However, the country is still battling with the challenge of securing training slots in cartography through the available capacity- building programmes of the International Hydrographic Organization. Notwithstanding this challenge, it is worth mentioning that earlier in the year, the United Kingdom’s Hydrographic Office trained one cartographer for the Nigerian Navy Office. “Another cartographer from the Office is undergoing similar cartographic course at the United States of America National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”
The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, in his goodwill message, said the event would accelerate collective reflection on matters relating to maritime safety and the need for hydrographic data.
Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, the new Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), said that inland waterways were safer than they used to be, adding that efforts were being made for more improvement.
“NIWA clearly understands the importance of geospatial knowledge in maritime operations. From geolocating the obstacles- natural or manmade to search and rescue, barge limits to horsepower requirements, other navigational safety issues to safety of the environment or threats to Inland Waterways, The Nigerian Navy and NIWA have largely co-operated and shared information in these and other areas.”
Among the countries at the conference were Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Morocco.
Others were Portugal, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sweden, Togo and the United Kingdom.