The SA Navy Hydrographic Office has been operational for more than 60 years supporting safe navigation at sea in the South Africa region. Recognition of the important work it does comes in the form of the Hydrographic Bill.
According to the latest Department of Defence (DoD) annual report, the bill “seeks to recognise and grant legislative status to the Office of the Hydrographer which has been in existence since the inception of hydrographic services in South Africa”.
It will see a change in title for the hydrographer, currently Captain (SAN) Theo Stokes. Once the bill goes onto the Statute Book he and his successors will no longer be known as the Hydrographer of the SA Navy but will become the National Hydrographer.
Hydrographic services provided by the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) are centred on SAS Protea (A324) and offices at the Silvermine complex.
Protea is a Hecla Class survey vessel currently commanded by Captain (SAN) Glen Hallet. He could be her last master as she is due to be retired, with construction of a replacement platform, in terms of Project Hotel, underway and expected to take four years at Southern African Shipyards (SAS) in Durban.
The first steel is due to be cut this month (November) and indications are the skeg of the VARD Canada-designed vessel will be complete by year-end.
Apart from the Protea replacement, Hotel also makes provision for a pair of integrated inshore motorboats and the upgrading of shore-based hydrographic office infrastructure at Silvermine.
The mission of the Navy Hydrographic Office is to meet national, defence and commercial customers’ needs for navigational charts and other hydrographic information, in support of safe navigation.
Once the Hydrographic Bill is on the Statute Book “the provision of hydrographic services will be formalised and enacted into law” the annual report states.