Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Anniversary meeting IHO - European Commission

Event date:
06/05/2022 (All day)
Table of Contents
    to celebrate the ten years, look back at what has been achieved and to look forward to new challenges

    Brussels, 6 May 2022


    Achievements of first 10 years. 1

    Signing of Commemorative Poster 2

    Member States Hydrographic Organizations. 2

    Lessons learned from past decade. 2

    Maritime Spatial Planning. 2

    EMODnet Bathymetry. 2

    Coastal mapping. 2

    Common Information Sharing Environment 3

    Atlantic seabed mapping. 3

    Future Challenges. 3

    Increasing use of data and products from hydrography. 3

    Mission Ocean, Digital Twin Ocean and Ocean Observation initiative. 3

    Marine Strategy Framework Directive. 4

    European Maritime Transport Environmental Report 4

    EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change. 4

    Joint Conclusions. 5

    Participants. 6


    Achievements of first 10 years

    Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius thanked IHO for the cooperation that had ensured the achievement of the EU’s objective of a digital seabed map of European waters by 2029. The map has already guided the allocation of windfarm sites which will allow a quintupling of capacity by 2030 and has massively improved storm surge forecasts in the North Sea. It will be an enabling tool for the sustainable blue economy announced in 2021. The next priority is to improve the way EU countries collect marine data, moving towards a common EU approach for measuring once and using the data for many purposes. The Commission aims to make a proposal this summer.


    Luigi Sinapi, director of IHO, said that cooperation with the EU was in line with the widening of the IHO’s mission confirmed in its 2016 revised Convention extending the scope beyond safe navigation and simplifying the procedures for Coastal States to adhere the IHO. He emphasised the importance of the new Universal Hydrographic Data Model, S-100. Given the success of the collaboration and the new challenges for the ocean, an updating of the Memorandum of Understanding could be considered.

    Signing of Commemorative Poster  

    Commissioner Sinkevičius signed the commemorative poster. It will then be signed by Secretary General Mathias Jonas who was temporarily indisposed and unable to travel to the event.


    Member States Hydrographic Organizations


    Representatives of hydrographic agencies of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden summarized their responsibilities, future priorities and their fruitful relations with the Commission, especially with the DG MARE.

    Lessons learned from past decade  

    Maritime Spatial Planning 


    All but five Member States have either completed or nearly completed their maritime spatial plans..Some countries have uploaded their plans to EMODnet and others will be encouraged to do so. A “Blue Forum” to facilitate dialogue between different users of the sea will begin operations later this year. Juan Ronco from DG MARE and Thomas Dehling from the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) summarised lessons learned and future plans. Coordination between neighbours is essential in order to avoid harmful environmental activity and joined up navigational routes. Projects to ease this cooperation have been useful, including gravity measurements to define a baseline in the Baltic. More analysis of lessons learned is needed in order to guide future work.

    first presentation  second presentation

    EMODnet Bathymetry


    The EMODnet bathymetry team have progressively built a comprehensive reference process for assembling, processing and disseminating surveys and digital topographic maps that has fundamentally transformed our knowledge of European seas. Thierry Schmitt of Shom explained how initial pilot efforts have increased in resolution and coverage, how the digital maps include measures of quality and how the work has been fully integrated in the work of the global GEBCO digital map of the seabed. The increase of the number of visits of the website, in particular when innovative tools or products are introduced, is a good indicator of the meeting of the users’needs.


    Coastal mapping

    Miguel Bessa Pacheco of the Portuguese hydrographic institute showed how coastal mapping contributes to laying submarine cables, understanding coastal erosion and identifying valuable underwater archaeology artefacts.  The EU Marine and Maritime Policies Working Group (IENWG) objectives include assessing current availability, disseminating information in EMODnet, sharing experience, developing best practice and developing a European strategy for coastal mapping. This strategy includes coordinating mapping programmes at European and sea-basin scale, making best use of EU funding programmes and highlighting the multiple uses of bathymetric data.


    Common Information Sharing Environment

    The Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE), coordinated by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) allows maritime authorities with different responsibilities – fisheries or border control, navigational safety, smuggling, monitoring, deterrence etc. – connect their systems and communicate with each other, thus building up a more complete maritime awareness. Gianluca Luraschi from EMSA summarised progress towards the planned start of operations in 2023.

    Gaël Morvan from the French Hydrographic Office (Shom) highlighted how hydrographic offices could contribute information such as oceanographic forecasts, maritime forecasts and navigational hazards in order to help the work of coastguards and other maritime authorities.

    first presentation  second presentation

    Atlantic seabed mapping

    Thomas Furey, co-programmer manager of the Irish seabed mapping project INFOMAR, reported on efforts to map the international waters of the Atlantic, partly through formal agreements with neighbouring countries and partly through research projects funded by the EU. The projects had estimated the costs of 400x400km sections and identified priorities. The most cost-effective way to do this would be through “opportunistic” surveys. i.e. equipping vessels whose primary purpose is not monitoring the seabed with the necessary equipment and training the crews to use it. So far, this has not happened. MARE reported that an article in Science on 23 March had highlighted the outsize role that seafloor topography plays in sequestering carbon and heat through enhanced circulation.


    Future Challenges  

    Increasing use of data and products from hydrography


    The French Hydrographic Office, Shom, coordinate the IHO- European Commisison network. Laurent Kerleguer, their  Director General highlighted the benefit of the European initiatives such as EMODnet in helping producers of marine data to apply standards, develop interoperability and built the necessary partnership.

    He explained that after the standardization of the international nautical charts, standardization, digitization and e-navigation, the use is now broadened beyond the safety of navigation to embrace more broadly the efficiency of navigation.

    Mission Ocean, Digital Twin Ocean and Ocean Observation initiative

    Iain Shepherd, from DG MARE, drew attention to opportunities for participating in Mission Ocean, both by framing the questions and by taking part in projects. This initiative, financed by more than €100 million a year from the Horizon Europe programme, will demonstrate innovative solutions for achieving European Green Deal objectives of decarbonisation, biodiversity and pollution. It emphasises nature-based solutions in coastal regions. The Mission will also finance a European Digital Twin Ocean, adding more data, more models and faster computing to EMODnet and Copernicus.

    The hydrographic offices looked forward to participate in future calls of Mission Ocean with their experience and expertise.

    Following up on the coastal mapping project, consultations and an impact assessment, the Commission intends to propose a common EU approach for measuring once and using the data for many purposes through joint planning of ocean observation activities and a framework for collaboration on a national and EU scale. A study will start shortly to define a possible reporting template.


    Marine Strategy Framework Directive

    Laurent Markovic from DG ENV reported progress in reaching good environmental status in each of the eleven descriptors of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The work of hydrographic agencies are relevant to all but particularly to the ones on seafloor integrity and hydrographical conditions. Only 30% of Member States were able to determine the current environmental status according to these descriptors. An evaluation is underway to identify potential areas for improvement including better data availability, quality and comparability, improved regional coordination and the incorporation of climate change considerations. 


    European Maritime Transport Environmental Report

    The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Environment Agency’s recent comprehensive European Maritime Transport Environmental Report analyses environmental pressures from maritime transport, summarises relevant EU and international environmental standards and describes current and future actions to reduce environmental impact. Samy Djavidnia from EMSA reported that it accounts for 3% of CO2 emissions, 16% of SO2 and 22% of NO2. Oil pollution had decreased but underwater noise energy doubled between 2014 and 2019. In the absence of sufficient urgency from the International Maritime Organisation, the EU has proposed its own measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through its “Fit for 55 package”. It was pointed out that more accurate mapping could reduce emissions, particularly the entry to port.



    EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change

    Claus Kondrup of DG CLIMA explained that, as part of the 2050 vision of a climate-resilient Union, the new adaptation strategy aims to make adaptation smarter, more systemic at all levels – from individual and local actions to stepped-up action at an international level. Hydrographic offices must play a role in the necessary improvement of knowledge, management of uncertainty, risk assessment and asset-level modelling. Shom reported that they are investigating insights in the potential impact of climate change through analysis of historic records. They that are working with several other hydrographic offices such as those from Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland. to develop data rescue strategies to support modelling of the climate change . Hydrographic offices have in some areas, more than 250 years of record of sea level or coastal maps, not yet digitalized and exploited.


    Joint Conclusions

    Ten years ago we found that the European Commission and the International Hydrographic Organization had similar objectives. The European Commission, after the publication of the Blue Book in 2007, had seen that reliable and interoperable data were essential to pave the way for sustainable maritime policies by reducing costs, limiting risk and stimulating innovation in the blue economy. It was preparing its Marine Knowledge 2020 initiative which undertook to deliver a “seamless multiresolution seabed map of European waters by 2020”. At the same time, in response to the same driving forces, the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) was moving beyond its traditional role of supporting safe navigation towards promoting the use of hydrography for all purposes. Hydrography is a technical discipline where the standards and the level of international and intergovernmental cooperation are truly and consistently implemented at a global level. The widening of its mission was confirmed in its revised convention that entered into force in 2016.

    This convergence of interests prompted the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Commissioner Maria Damanaki on behalf of the European Commission and Secretary General Alexandros Maratos on behalf of the IHO in Monaco on 23 April 2012.

    The collaboration has brought fruit. Thanks to a concerted approach, the digital map of the European seabed was delivered on schedule. The willingness of European hydrographic offices to make their surveys openly available and to work together to ensure that all the pieces fit together were essential to this effort. This digital seabed map is at the heart of the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) which is now the reference; and not only for Europe. EMODnet bathymetry embodies best practice in regional coordination of hydrographic data processing. It is embedded into IHO´s global authoritative bathymetric data set - the GEBCO grid. The benefits for the EU are immense. Better knowledge of the shape of the seabed has improved nearly all analysis of the ocean, It has reduced planning costs for wind farms or laying subsea cables, It has enabled better forecasts of storm surges. It has facilitated the identification and monitoring of marine habitats and ecosystems.

    We are now looking forward to the next phase of collaboration. We still need to make sure that best use is made of data that have already been collected. Because leading hydrographic offices have become data-centric service providers rather than only nautical chart publishers, we are able to progress with all the green deal objectives including adapting to climate change, protecting biodiversity, cutting pollution and building a Digital Twin of the Ocean (DTO).

    We now need to see if the right data are being collected and that we are collecting them in the most efficient way. For example, shallow coastal waters are the most productive for the maritime economy and the most vulnerable for the marine environment. Five years ago, a study concluded that innovative technology and cooperation between different countries could accelerate the mapping of these areas.

    We now need to work together to make this happen. We need to share effort and standards with other communities observing the sea in line with the United Nation’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The IHO´s S-100 standardised data services form a technical basis for this cross sectoral integration of marine knowledge. A unifying framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and the partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science with precise sea bed mapping is indispensable.





    Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie



    Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie






    Danish Geodata Agency



    Danish Geodata Agency






    DG ENV





















    EMODnet Secretariat









    European Commission



    Flemish government - Agency for Maritime & Coastal Services -  Coastal Division



    Flemish Hydrography - Flemish Government



    Freimann Engineering



    Geological Survey Ireland



    Hellenic Navy Hydrographic Service



    Hellenic Navy Hydrographic Service



    Hydrographic Office of the Polish Navy



    Hydrographic Service of the Royal Netherlands Navy



    Hydrographic Service of the Royal Netherlands Navy

    Luis Miguel

    Cardoso Pércio Bessa Pacheco

    Instituto Hidrográfico (Portugal)



    International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)



    Italian Hydrographic Office - Italian Navy



    Marine Institute, Ireland



    Romanian Maritime Hydrographic Directorate



    Shom: French Hydrographic Office



    Shom: French Hydrographic Office



    Shom: French Hydrographic Office



    Shom: French Hydrographic Office



    Shom: French Hydrographic Office



    Swedish Maritime Administration