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Interview: National Hydrographic Office India – Rear Admiral B R Rao NM, VSM

National Hydrographic Office has a fleet of eight modern oceangoing survey ships fully equipped with latest hydrographic, oceanographic, geomagnetic and sea gravity sensors capable of undertaking surveys from the coastal waters to the deep oceans.


Rear Admiral B R Rao NM, VSM
Chief Hydrographer
Government of India

Q. What are the techniques that are being used in Field Surveying?
What sort of software is used?

A National Hydrographic Office has a fleet of eight modern oceangoing survey ships fully equipped with latest hydrographic, oceanographic, geomagnetic and sea gravity sensors capable of undertaking surveys from the coastal waters to the deep oceans. The department uses state of the art technology for collection of data and the equipment suite of the ships consists of geodetic GPS receivers, Differential GPS, multibeam swath sounding systems, single beam echo sounders, sided scan sonars, Doppler current profilers, deep ocean casts, sea gravimeters, magnetometers, etc. All the sensors on board are integrated to a data logger. Modern processing softwares are installed on board to sift and process that data so that it can be assessed for completeness and quality. National Hydrographic Office and surveying ships have been primarily using CARIS GIS software since 1994.

Q. What are the latest developments in the field of GIS based Hydrographic Information System?

A The Hydrographic Information System is used to generate the Digital Terrain Models (DTM), contour generation, EEZ continental shelf demarcation, coastline change detection, Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs), Additional Military Layers (AML). In addition to this, NHO is in the process of implementing Field Survey Database (FSDB) where all the hydrographic data would be archived at single place and the source database provides seamless and non-redundant storage and maintenance of spatial and non-spatial data used for all hydrographic products.

Q. What kind of manpower is available for National Hydrographic Department (NHD) to carry out surveys?

A The NHD is part of the Indian Navy and the personnel manning the ships are trained as per the standard naval training policy. The officers join the hydrographic specialization after completing the basic training mandatory for naval officers. We have officers being directly recruited into the Hydrographic cadre as well as specialist training at National Hydrographic School, Goa.

Q. What kind of collaboration does the National Hydrographic Organization (NHO) have with Survey of India and other international surveying agencies?

A NHO shares a healthy and working relationship with the Survey of India. Though the areas of responsibility of both the organizations are markedly different, NHD has been sharing information, data and resources. On many occasions the NHD has carried SoI teams in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Likewise the SoI too has offered help when sought for. In the international context India is a member of the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) based at Monaco. NHD is in a number of committees of the IHO.

Q. What kind of efforts are going on in the field of NSDI? How much has been achieved so far?

A During the 23rd meeting at Hyderabad NHO proposed an approach for modeling a reference architecture for Indian NSDI pilot using Reference Model of Open distributed Systems with special reference to interoperability standards for NHOs Enterprise GIS initiatives. UKHO has developed as scheme to encode S 57 data in GML format and this format will allow any interest user view ENC data through just an Internet browser. This incidentally happens to be the de-facto data exchange standard for NSDI’s.

Q. What is the role of GPS in NAVAREA warning (coastal warning)? Are there any plans to club warning systems of naval forces with civilian warning systems?

A The GPS is a world wide positioning system, which can give position anywhere anytime. The NAVAREA/Coastal Warnings such do not have any direct relation with the GPS. However, since GPS is omnipresent, geographic orientation of warnings and dangers do help in avoiding them. The warnings broadcast are common for all. Navy is not involved in tsunami warning. There are other organizations that have been tasked with the onus of reporting tsunami warnings by placing ocean buoys. The Navy helps in maintenance/monitoring of these buoys.

Q. Are the survey MoUs, similar to the one with Maritius, being planned with other countries? How are they beneficial to India?

A India is one of the advanced countries in the world in so far as Hydrography is concerned and a leader in the Indian Ocean region. NHD has received requests from Maldives to set up their hydrographic infrastructure, train their personnel, assist in surveys, etc. Other than MoUs with Mauritius, there have been requests from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Seychelles for surveys. These have definitely been beneficial for the goodwill that they have generated, towards India, in these countries.