United Kingdom Hydrographic Office
|United Kingdom Hydrographic Office|
|Minister responsible||Andrew Robathan|
|Agency executives||Rear Admiral (Ret) Ian Moncrieff, CBE, Chief Executive
Rear Admiral Tom Karsten, Deputy Chief Executive
|Parent Agency||Ministry of Defence|
The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (or UKHO) is an organisation within the UK government responsible for providing navigational and other hydrographic information for national, civil and defence requirements. The UKHO is located in Taunton, Somerset on Admiralty Way and has a workforce of approximately 1000 staff.
The office is a Trading Fund of the Ministry of Defence and is directly responsible to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Veterans. The current minister is Andrew Robathan, MP. The Chief Executive of the agency is Ian Moncrieff, BA, CBE who took over in October 2011. The agency is self-funding and its Trading Fund status allows protection of the copyright in its publications.
In December 2007 the UKHO announced a downsizing exercise codenamed 'project AMBER' aimed at reducing overheads by allowing large numbers of staff to leave under an early release arrangement. The UKHO launched the Admiralty Vector Chart Series in April 2008.
The Admiralty's first Hydrographer was Alexander Dalrymple, appointed in 1795 on the order of King George III and in the next year the existing charts were brought together and catalogued. The first chart the Admiralty produced (of Quiberon Bay in Brittany) did not appear until 1800.
Dalrymple was succeeded on his death in 1808 by Captain Thomas Hurd, under whose stewardship the department was given permission to sell charts to the public. Hurd oversaw the first production of "Sailing Directions" in 1829 and the first catalogue in 1825 with 736 charts. Rear-Admiral Sir W. Edward Parry was appointed Hydrographer in 1823 after his second expedition to discover a Northwest Passage. In 1829, at the age of 55, Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort became Hydrographer. During this time, he developed his eponymous Scale and saw the introduction of official tide tables in 1833 and the first "Notices to Mariners" in 1834. By the time of Beaufort's retirement in 1855, the Chart Catalogue listed 1,981 charts and 64,000 copies of them had been issued to the Royal Navy.
In the 1930s the collection of oceanographic and naval meteorological data started. At the start of the Second World War chart printing moved to Taunton but the main office did not move until 1968. Metrication of charts began in 1967 while digitisation started in the 1980s. "Admiralty Raster Chart Service" began to be produced in 1996 and in 2000 online services were started. In April 2008 the UKHO launched its AVCS (Admiralty Vector Chart Service) which aims to get round the inability of many smaller hydrographic offices to produce electronic charts by incorporating them into the Admiralty service.
Originally data was mainly collected using ordinary Royal Navy ships. In 1953, the first purpose-built survey vessel was launched; HMS Vidal. The current ships form the "Hydrographic Squadron". The use of the echo sounder and other electronic equipment in the 20th century saw a big increase in the quantity and quality of the data collected.
Under the Public Records Act 1958, UKHO became an authorised 'place of deposit' which has given it the responsibility of maintaining its own archive. Its documents date from 1755. Its prime customer is the Royal Navy for which it produces hydrographic, oceanographic and geophysical products and services. The UKHO also produces a range of outputs for the leisure market. It collects tidal information from around the world and publishes the "Admiralty Tide Tables" (in 4 volumes) and provides an online service called "Easytide".
Most UKHO publications are available in both paper and online versions. Publications include charts, nautical publications and astronomical publications. Notable nautical publications include Admiralty Sailing Directions (Pilots, 74 volumes), Admiralty Tide Tables (4 volumes), Admiralty List of Radio Signals (6 volumes), Admiralty List of Lights and Fog Signals (10 volumes) and more. Notable astronomical publications include The Nautical Almanac and The Astronomical Almanac among others.
Access to data and criticisms
As with the Ordnance Survey for land mapping, the Hydrographic Office possesses a government monopoly on data for nautical charts and publications in the UK, while, although a part of the Ministry of Defence, also acts as a Trading Agency or commercial entity. This means that it is supposed to be totally self-funding from the commercial sale of its data and derived products - whilst at the same time it is supposed to be the public supplier of information. In 2010/11 it made a profit of almost £22 million from its commercial activities. These issues are very different to those of the Ordnance Survey where data is gathered at public expense. The UKHO sources much of its information from foreign governments to whom it pays a royalty fee and thus is no burden on the UK taxpayer.
The UKHO has a complex set of licences, according to the use of the product and its value. Whilst it generally allows use for non-navigational purposes at little or no cost, where licencing is for use in a navigational product (which can obviously compete with its core commercial activities), a higher licence fee is charged. Furthermore there are some data sets that it uses in its own products that it refuses to make available to other organisations.
In the Information Fair Trader Scheme Report on the UKHO in April 2011  it states that the UKHO data will not be included in the Public Data Corporation  to make government owned data more freely available (part 3, item 29), but it does recommend that the UKHO implements a "Free Navigational Licence" (part 3, item 37).
- "UKHO Announces Next National Hydrographer". United Kingdom Hydrographic Office,. 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
- "Nick Lambert - United Kingdom". uk.linkedin.com. Retrieved 21 August 2010. Text " LinkedIn " ignored (help)
- "The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO)". Shareholder Executive. HM Government. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
- "AVCS". UK Hydrographic Office. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
- "Charting the world for over 200 years". www.ukho.gov.uk. UKHO. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- "Timeline of the UKHO" (PDF). www.ukho.gov.uk. UKHO. Archived from the original on 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- "Products and Services". United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. Retrieved 2010-07-25.
- "UKHO Introduction to Copyright Licencing". Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- "Information Fair Trader Scheme Report on the UKHO in April 2011". Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- "Public Data Corporation to free up public data and drive innovation". Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- The official UKHO web site The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office
- The official Admiralty web site Admiralty products and services from the UKHO
- Admiralty Easytide, Admiralty's online tidal prediction service
- UKHO information at the BBC Weather's web site