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About Our Hydrographic Service


The PLA Hydrographic Service provides a wide range of services to river users.

Continuous monitoring of the river and estuary are essential to the safe navigation of the Thames. Regular surveys are completed of the tidal Thames from Teddington to the Outer Estuary. Many types of survey are carried out – conservancy surveys covering the whole riverbed from bank to bank, navigational safety surveys covering critical areas, engineering and berth surveys, all now produced digitally to high efficiency and accuracy.

Tide and current information is also obtainable, both as live and historical data.

The PLA is ISO9001 accredited and as such all hydrographic surveys are subject to prescribed procedures.

For many years the surveyors of the PLA Hydrographic Service have been actively involved with national and international hydrographic matters, holding responsible positions with FIG, IMarEST and the Hydrographic Society. All methods and equipment are exhaustively tested and the officers regularly present their findings at surveying conferences.

University College London and the PLA Hydrographic Service have formed a partnership to deliver a one year postgraduate MSc in Hydrographic Surveying.  The course has been awarded Category A accreditation by the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO).  For further information about this course see MSc in Hydrographic Surveying

To contact the Hydrographic Team please use this Enquiry Form.

Vessels and equipment

The Hydrographic Service operates three survey craft - see "About our boats" for details. All vessels are fitted with multibeam sonar systems and Applanix POSMV positioning and inertial reference units. The Verifier has the Reson 8101 MBES and is used predominantly in the Estuary and the Yantlet is fitted with the Reson 8125 and conducts navigation and structural surveys mainly in the river.  The Galloper has the Reson 7125 and is predominately used for surveying the shallows or shore ends in the river.

Early in 2016 the 20 year old Yantlet is being replaced bya new 18m catamaran, to be called Maplin, based on a standard catamaran hull but specifically tailored to cater for the additional geophysical survey equipment that the service is increasingly involved with, having hydraulic ‘A’ frame, winch and deck crane as well as a central ’moonpool’.

The whole chart production operation is now digital, using the latest GIS technology, and the PLA Hydrographic Service is in the forefront of ports producing IHO S57 electronic charts.


The Hydrographic service presently consists of:

  • Port Hydrographer. A Chartered Surveyor and Master Mariner with 27 years experience surveying the Thames. Responsible for strategic planning and overseeing the department.
  • Deputy Port Hydrographer and Commercial Manager. An IMarEST charter with a degree in Surveying Science with 20 years on the Thames. Responsible for the day to day administration of the department and all commercial activities.
  • Two Senior Surveyors.  Whilst retaining their role as Field Surveyors, the two Senior Surveyors also have responsibility for all the scheduling and allocation of resources to meet the survey programme, as well as the processing and delivery of the final products.  Each of the Senior Surveyors has over 17 years experience surveying the Thames and are Chartered Surveyors.
  • Three Field Surveyors. Over 15 years combined experience on the river and significant experience with offshore surveying as well, the field surveyors all hold Degrees in surveying and have a good knowledge of boat work. They are encouraged to work towards becoming Members of the IMarEST / ICES. They are responsible for the collection and processing of all the sounding and topographic data.
  • Conservancy Manager.  With a post graduate degree in Oceanography the Conservancy Manager bridges the gap between engineering, conservancy and environment, with a particular responsibility for dredging and impact assessment.  Also responsible for the analysis and prediction of the tides on the Thames.
  • GIS Manager. Organises the vast amounts of data held within the Hydrographic Service and throughout the organisation and has been developing a corporate GIS to access some of this data.
  • Data Processor A new post to relieve the surveyors of some of the workload in final production of charts, in particular the management and processing of the vast amounts of bathymetry.  The service is now capable of maintaining electronic charts to fuel the new pilot carry-aboard systems.
  • Marine Geoscientist.  A post particular to the Thames Tideway Tunnel project to manage and distribute the huge amounts of data coming in related to the works, closely linked to the Conservancy and GIS Managers.
  • Administrative support is responsible for the printing and distribution of the charts. Maintenance of the ISO 9001 documentation also rests with this post.
  • Survey crew Five crew working exclusively with the Hydrographic Service, with all the local and national qualifications required to operate the boats and many years of survey experience.

Further information:

Team Photo Gallery

Organisational Chart

Hydrographic Services Films

Watch the films about our hydrographic service:

Charting the Thames is all about about hydrographic surveying and chart production for the River Thames.

PLA Hydrographic Service – Overview covers the services we offer to commercial clients.

Alternatively read our article Topping the Charts or view our gallery The Hydrographic Team in the PLA Media Centre to find out more about the PLA Hydrographic Service.