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Quebec Bulletin
June - July 2013/Volume 16/Number 3

Hydrography — Underpinning the Blue Economy

A hydrographer conducting a bathymetric survey.
A hydrographer conducting a bathymetric survey of a shallow area in a fishing harbour

In 2006, the United Nations declared June 21 as World Hydrography Day. The theme for 2013 selected by the International Hydrographic Organization is "Hydrography — Underpinning the Blue Economy."

This theme demonstrates the importance of hydrography for the economic development of numerous maritime-related activities, such as transportation. Studies show that investments in hydrography are very profitable and can yield an up to 10-fold rate of return. This provides insight into hydrography's contribution to marine transportation, one of the most economical and ecological methods of transportation, considering the quantity of goods transported. The added value of hydrography is mainly related to improving the safety of waterways and allowing mariners to maximize their shipments by using better routes and the full depth available.

A better understanding of depths and water levels helps carriers better manage their cargo. Knowing that each additional 15 cm of depth in a navigation channel permits, on average, an additional 1000 tonnes of cargo to be transported can significantly improve transportation efficiency. Quebec is at the forefront of this industry thanks to its e-navigation collaboration with the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

In Quebec, some 46 hydrographers from the Canadian Hydrographic Service alternate between working in the field and at the office. They are continuously improving as a result of new technologies, which make their work even more efficient. In order to produce accurate and up-to-date maps and documents, hydrographers are in contact with the CCG; the marine transportation, recreational boating and fishing industries; harbour managers; and several other stakeholders. In the summer, they go on site (which extends from Ottawa to Blanc-Sablon, passing through the Magdalen Islands) to measure water levels and identify obstacles and shoals throughout the channels and fishing harbours. Hydrographers work as a team to ensure the safety of mariners, provide data to scientists, the fishing industry and engineering firms, and support the blue economy.

The Interdisciplinary Center for the Development of Ocean Mapping, a longtime partner of the Canadian Hydrographic Service, will hold a symposium from June 20–21, 2013, in Rimouski. The symposium will focus on a new application of hydrography, namely, the use of optical and acoustic technologies for underwater infrastructure inspection. World Hydrography Day will also be highlighted during the symposium.

Robert Dorais

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