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Chapter 4.8
Establishing a Hydrographic Office within the framework of the Marine Department
Contributor: Tam Kwong-lim

In the early 1990s, over ninety percent of Hong Kong’s trade was carried out by ships. The Government was aware that navigation safety and effective port administration relied on accurate and up-to-date hydrographic information. Ships navigating in Hong Kong waters are required to carry onboard up-to-date nautical charts and publications.

Having regard to all the circumstances, and also considering the change of sovereignty, after which the British Admiralty would no longer have any obligations to produce up-to-date charts for Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Government considered it appropriate to establish a hydrographic office for the continued surveying of its waters and the production of nautical charts. After 1992, as part of the preparation for the handover, marine officers were sent to Plymouth University in the UK for hydrographic training. Other officers and technical staff were also put through the necessary training in subsequent years. Procurement of the necessary and most up-to-date equipment, including two survey launches, was approved.

The Hydrographic Office was to be organised into three sections: Surveying, Charting, and Aids to Navigation (which was later separated from the office).

A capital expenditure list for the new office included the most up-to-date survey equipment available on the market, such as a multi-beam echo sounder system, a heave compensator system, a differential global-positioning system, a short-range position system, a precision compass, an automatic tide gauge, a current meter, data logging hardware and software, as well as some land-surveying equipment. Moreover, the office was also installed with a hydrographic survey system, a sonar-image-processing system, a data processing system, an electrostatic plotter, an A0 size digitizer, etc. All chart compilation was all done by computers, utliising state-of-the-art hardware and software.

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