Applications / Developing Countries and Capacity Building

Howland Island nautical chart
Cambodian fishing boat

Sustainable development goals 14 and 17

In many less developed parts of the world, the level of hydrographic surveying can be minimal. If there is a commercial port, the port and its approaches may have been surveyed in the last 50 years, but otherwise you are often just looking at a few lines of lead line soundings, often spaced several miles apart. Unfortunately in many cases the countries do not have the budget or skills to carry out more extensive surveys. Yet these regions are often most in need of better bathymetric data, not just for safe navigation but also to improve the economy, for example by finding safe anchorages for visiting cruise ships, or to manage and sustain fishing stocks as well as being used as input into models of tsunamis and hurricanes or typhoons, to help ensure adequate coastal defences, and that buildings are only erected in safe areas.

Capacity building is a concept initially developed by the UN Development Programme, who define it as:

… the creation of an enabling environment with appropriate policy and legal frameworks, institutional development, including community participation (of women in particular), human resources development and strengthening of managerial systems, adding that, UNDP recognizes that capacity building is a long-term, continuing process, in which all stakeholders participate…

This works at three levels: developing the skills of individuals; the capabilities of organisations; and at the highest level setting the policy frameworks within which individuals and organisations work. These tie in strongly with the 17th of the UN's sustainable development goals, of using partnerships to help implement the goals. Obviously our work also ties in with the 14th goal of life below water: conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, as well as contributing to other goals.

The use of crowd sourced bathymetry is ideal in providing bathymetric data which can be used in its own right, and also as a baseline from which areas requiring higher resolution or higher accuracy surveys can be identified. This makes best use of available funds, as the expensive resources are only used where there is a clear need. Furthermore, the engagement of the local community can raise overall awareness of the importance of bathymetric data, and the uses to which it can be put.

Of course, many small craft may not be equipped with a suitable depth sounder and GPS. We have been developing the concept of pole that can be lashed or clamped to the gunwale of a boat, with a GPS antenna at the top, a depth sounder at the bottom, and a rechargeable battery and data logger in the middle (with an optional data display). These are low cost items that can be provided to the boats in an area as they go out to sea, and returned for recharging and for downloading of the data at the end of the day.

We are keen to engage with any projects in the developing world where our technology can be of benefit. We see crowd sourced bathymetry as an important, cost effective way of building up baseline bathymetric data in these areas that is good enough for many purposes, and  also engages the local community so they can appreciate its benefits. Please contact us if you have any suitable projects.